This equestrian wants to compete in the Rio Olympics at 69, and he still wouldn’t be the oldest Olympian ever. He’d have to make it to Tokyo in 2020 to attain that record.
My cats have flown from Tokyo to Seattle to Singapore to Tokyo over a five-year period. To be fair, the whole experience of Vet exams, shots, cat containers, transportation to airports, planes with other animals and loud sounds….probably not the best thing for our cats. But we needed them where we were going, so on the plane they went.
Equestrians need their horses where they are going. And in 1964, horses did not fly well. In fact, in an AP report on October 1, it was reported that an 11-year-old gelding named Markham on the US team went berserk in her stall in the airplane only an hour after it took off from Newark Airport. Markham was causing such a commotion that officials felt that the horse had to be put down so as not to jeopardize the safety of the plane.
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.
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,
There are many stories of Japanese going beyond expectations in helping foreigners in need, but this story was above and beyond the call of duty. Prince Bernhard of Holland lost his Dunhill tobacco pouch while observing equestrian events in Karuizawa. That’s when a platoon of Japan’s Self Defense Forces sprung into action, combing the entire 33 kilometer equestrian course, finding the royal pouch in under 60 minutes. “They are quite wonderfully organized,” he said, referring to the Japanese Self-Defense Forces men. “They are really worthy of a gold medal.” (Did he really say that?)
Prince Bernhard was not a man of insignificance. He established the World Wildlife Fund in 1961. Unfortunately, he was forced to step down from the WWF after being implicated in the notorious Lockheed scandals, accepting a million dollar bribe in exchange for influencing Dutch aircraft purchases. Lockheed also helped bring