Tokyo 2020: "I'm here, now I can just enjoy it!"
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Olympic first-timer Charlotte Fry, with her petite frame and Yorkshire accent, has impressed beyond expectation with her ice-cool temperament, enthusiasm and great talent in harnessing all the power of the breeding stallion Everdale for peak performance. Here she speaks to British Dressage about her journey so far, from selection to Setagaya.
Photos © British Equestrian | Jon Stroud Media
I knew the call from Judy [Harvey, Chair of Selectors] was going to come while I was at as show with some other horses and I was really worried all day – I was competing and I didn’t have my phone on me but luckily the call came right in between tests! It was really exciting to get that call. Then the reality set in that I was going to the Olympics and the planning got underway – how we’d train to be ready, the paperwork for the journey, preparation of both him and me….there was so much to think about.
We focused training at home rather than any competitions. We used different arenas at home and each day concentrated on something different from the test. We were lucky because we had a couple of weeks in Holland where it was quite hot so we worked in the heat of the day to help him (and me!) acclimatise – it was good prep work. For a good few weeks it was email after email with lots of paperwork – it was so busy and flat out – it was a lot to process.
We did our quarantine with all the European horses in Aachen. It really surprised me how relaxed and calm it was. Everyone made me feel welcome and was so friendly. All the other teams were amazing as I was the only Brit. It was extremely well organised and great to have use of the Aachen facilities. We could book the sole use of the arenas or ride with others but it never got too busy. You could carry on from your home training and didn’t really have to make any changes. It was really good for Everdale to go to a new place and not have to compete as he can get quite excited and fresh. It was great to do that before we came here. It was also great to have my reserve horse, Dark Legend, there too and I could concentrate on them both for a change – I really enjoyed that – and they seemed to love it too.
I’ve never actually seen a horse go on a flight before so I took him to the airport and was able to load him. He was really chilled and I wasn’t too worried as he’s a good traveller. He took it all in his stride and it was great that Alan [Davies] could go with them. He messaged me the whole time and kept me up to date with how they were getting on on the plane. He just ate, drank and chilled which gave me peace of mind. Pedens, who did all the travelling are just so professional – from loading the stallions on the plane first, then geldings and finally mares so it keeps the distance. They look after everything and take away all the worries and stress – that really helps too. The best thing though was getting that message that they’d landed and safely in the stables at the venue.
Anna [van Olst] and I then flew over to Heathrow where we met up with the rest of the team and Ash Wallace, who looks after us health wise to board the 12 hour flight for Tokyo. It was so great to see everyone and we felt like a team straight away. Once we landed, it took about three hours to get through the airport with all the paperwork and testing – we’d heard some were nearly six hours so three was fine!
After being apart for a few days it was great to get to the venue and see Everdale – and he looked amazing. The facillites here are just the best – I could stay here forever, I really love it. Everdale has everything he could possibly wish for – he loves the extra attention, the cooling facilities and the big stables which are perfectly cool with air conditioning with windows both sides. It’s just a nice place for them to be; it’s rally calm for them. For welfare reasons, we’re not allowed to ride between 12 and 3pm so the stables are completely quiet for that time and they turn the lights off so they can have some down time.
Everdale has coped with the travelling and settling in so well. I wasn’t concerned about the heat for him particularly as he has so much energy and he really copes; I don’t think I’ve ever had a day where he’s felt tired, he’s just always full power! The travelling didn’t seem to take too much out of him but I built him up slowly, taking it easy the first few days. As soon as I wanted to pick him up, he was ready and straight back to normal. He loves his work – he never likes to have too many days off so this is really good for him.
I actually surprised myself too with how I’ve coped with jet lag…or lack of it. I’ve never been out of Europe before, this is my first time! I’ve found it easy. It’s been good for me, normally I go to bed at 9pm and get up at 5am and I’ve had to get used to later nights and later mornings to work with the competition schedule.
I hope we didn’t worry too many at the trot up when Everdale and I didn’t appear at the horse inspection. We’d worked with the team here via our Performance Manager Caroline [Griffiths] to go at the end with him. We know he can be fresh and the other horses can set him off but just to be extra careful and safe – and much less chance of anything unexpected happening. The stewards were really good but he behaved really well.
In my final training session with Anna before last night we got everything all sussed out. I knew he was ready for it and I didn’t have much to worry about. Saturday morning, I gave him a leg stretch and I knew we were ready for the night ahead. I always go through the test with Anna before against how he’s going and how I need to ride. We have a plan for the warm up and then take it from there depending on how he feels.
The warm up went really well – just a tiny bit of stress when at the last minute I was advised I needed to remove my Davison badge as it might break rules so we had to find a knife all of a sudden! A little stressful just as your about to go in to do the biggest test of your life!
I went down the centreline and just thought to myself…’I’m here, now I can just enjoy it!’. I certainly did that, every bit of the test. He was so with me, I didn’t worry about any part of the test, I just rode every movement as it came and had a blast. I finished and was so happy and pleased.
You get taken to the stewards for the normal checks – there’s even thermal imaging to check the horses – but our vet Andre [Buthe] also uses a good old fashioned thermometer! There are cooling tents with misting fans if required but Everdale was fresh…and ready to go again! And I felt like I was too.
I was then escorted round to the mixed zone for interviews and I was so full of adrenaline, I accidently said a swear word on the first interview – with Olympic TV! It just leaked out…I was in shock and it felt so surreal. You get asked all these questions and I just had no idea what was coming out of my mouth. Once I got to down the line I got my composure and managed to keep it clean.
Once I did the mixed zone it was back to see everyone in the stables. Steven, our groom, had washed Everdale and he looked really chilled, and thoroughly pleased with himself. Anna was really pleased with everything and how it went. I said it was so much fun, I just wanted to go straight back in and do the next test.
A few hours later, I went through the test again with Anna where we discuss what could be even better – it’s our routine. We started preparing for the Special mentally there and then. He’ll have any easy day but Monday I’ll pick him up. I really love riding the Special, it really suits him and I just hope we can improve again.
Monday we’ll see how prepared he feels and what shape he’s in and in the Special on Tuesday, I’ll see how he feels and just ride what we have on the day. His personal best in the Special is 77% so we’ll see if we can match that.
I had no idea what to expect of the Olympics. It was so stop start getting here and there were so many rules and regulations – we couldn’t go outside, we couldn’t mix but actually it’s been amazing.
Our hotel is also the Team GB Preparation Camp so it’s been great to see so many other athletes but while keeping safe. It’s been so fun to learn from other athletes. We’ve kept an equestrian bubble in the hotel – we have our own floor. We order our food, it’s delivered to our rooms on trollies and then we have races to the room where we can all eat. We have a balcony with exercise bike where Ash puts us through our paces. She’s also let us try some compression boots which are amazing for recovery – never tried them before. We walk quite a lot here and I’m not used to it – I’m normally on a horse all day! It’s been great to chill out, really nice but there’s always something going on though! We’ve really gelled as a team which has been amazing fun.