Lost and Alone, 16-Year Old Equestrian Christilot Hanson-Boylen Finds Her Way to Japan and the Tokyo Olympics (and then 5 More Olympic Games)

Christilot Boylen at 11.
Christilot Boylen at 11.

Born in Jakarta, Indonesia to a Chinese-Dutch-French-Indonesian mother and Australian father, and living in Singapore before settling in Canada as 3 year old, Christilot Hanson-Boylen was already a seasoned traveler.

At 16, when she entered the Tokyo Summer Games as the youngest Olympic equestrian in Dressage, she and her horse, Bonheur, had already competed in Germany and the US. But Japan was a completely different destination. During a time when equestrian athletes got little to no organizational or national support, Hanson-Boylen traveled alone from Canada to Japan. She related her experience to me, described below.

In those days, there were no trainers, no managers, no back up. I was sent by myself. It started strangely as I was sent to Paris first. I had to stay overnight in Paris at the Hotel Claridge. They said the rooms were all booked. I had this coupon, but all they said they could do was put a cot in the bathroom. I still thought the bathroom was marvelous. They put a cot in there and I was just too stupid to complain. People kept rattling on the door all night.

Christilot Boylen at 16, in Tokyo.
Christilot Boylen at 16, in Tokyo.

I get to the airport and I saw one of the famous jump riders Nelson Pessoa of Brazil. I followed him, thinking “he’s going to Japan. He knows the way.” I was feeling a little scared, so I Introduced myself. He said, “Stick by me.” Sure enough he picks the wrong plane. We land in Calcutta.”

Hanson-Boylen eventually made it to Japan, commencing a life of Dressage competition in 6 Olympic Games from 1964 to 1992.

To see what dressage looks like, here is Christilot Boylen demonstrating the basics of the discipline in 2010.