Jan Tops: From Sporting Triumphs to Feats of the Heart
A chat with the founder of LGCT and GCL
At the core of sporting competition, there frequently lies a narrative that extends well beyond the confines of the arena. Jan Tops, a renowned figure in the realm of equestrianism, has transcended the limits of his discipline to establish himself as a genuine visionary entrepreneur. His remarkable story unfolds amidst triumphs in the field of show jumping and audacious ventures into the entrepreneurial landscape of this sector.
From the onset of his career, Jan Tops has commanded attention through his talent and unwavering determination. Representing the Netherlands at both national and international levels, he achieved the pinnacle of success by securing the team gold medal with his horse Top Gun La Silla at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 (alongside Bert Romp, Piet Raymakers, and Jos Lansink). His dominance in the sport endured for over a decade with this exceptional horse.
Even after retiring from competitive events, Jan Tops has continued to play a crucial role in the realm of show jumping. His ascent to the pinnacle of the sport has been characterized by significant and innovative challenges, coupled with an unyielding commitment to excellence. He has successfully translated his sporting renown into an opportunity to make a lasting impact on society.
Tops and his team, based in Valkenswaard, are extremely well-known in the horse world for their unique ability to match horses and riders to create a successful partnership using their training and handling skills.
Built on decades of expertise, Stal Tops stands as a globally esteemed benchmark for top-tier sport horses, featuring distinctive breeding mares and high-performance stallions.
The Longines Global Champions Tour is born
Presently, after years of dedicated effort, he has successfully established a global circuit for Show Jumping, spanning across five continents. Through the creation of the renowned Global Champions Tour, he has not only touched diverse corners of the world but also brought this discipline to a growing and expansive audience.
In November 2011, he tied the knot with the accomplished Australian rider and champion, Edwina Alexander, in a ceremony held at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Monte-Carlo.
– Jan, we know that in 2006 you started this world-famous project, the Global Champions Tour, which changed the world of horse riding. How did you come up with the idea?
“I’ve spent a quarter of a century happily being a horseman, flying everywhere for 45 weekends a year and participating, among other things, in four Olympics. But what worried me more and more was the fact that we were lagging behind popular global sports like Formula 1 and football, in every way. In 2005 I was in Malaysia, jet lag prevented me from sleeping, and in the middle of the night, in the bathroom of my hotel room, I put my complete vision on paper within four hours. A year later, the Global Champions Tour saw the light of day.“
– You started, if I’m not mistaken, with 6 events that took place in 6 major cities. Was it a difficult job?
“First of all, I’ve been traveling the world for years, so I’ve built valuable relationships. In addition, it is important to gather around you people with whom you build a good understanding. Having an efficient team is very important to get things done and do well. It is also significant that they are complementary to us; I’m a person who does what he promises, and I’ve found that in today’s society there aren’t many people who are like that in life.”
“If you don’t like what you do, you can’t really do your job seven days a week and 12 months a year”Jan Tops
“Other than that, I’ve always patiently stuck to my strategy. But in the end, the keyword is: passion. If you don’t like what you do, you can’t really do your job seven days a week and 12 months a year. Even in my life, all that glitters is not gold, the worries are always there. But passion trumps everything else. I’m always thinking about how to make things better. That keeps you young and awake.”
– With the start of the League, you created something new that brought a lot of innovation. Can you tell us how you got there?
“I’m obsessed and interested in everything that is high-level sport and practiced at a high level. I follow football and the development of Formula 1 closely, for example. This regularly makes me think. Just as I started the Global Tour in 2006 to bring the equestrian sport to a global level. Like football and Formula 1, our sport deserves the same. One of the main things I wanted to change is for riders, owners, and sponsors to get more attention and better earnings. Not just for riders, but for the entire industry. From breeding to auctions. Both sport and commerce have benefited.”
– Even though you are an Olympic champion and have had many successes in your long career as a high-level rider, do we see a huge emotion when, for example, your wife enters the field, does the same happen to you with your “pupils”?
“Of course, it’s the passion we’ve already talked about.”
– What do you look for when choosing a horse for your stable?
“I’ve ‘learned’ a lot as an entrepreneur in this sport. Vision and perseverance are important in both cases. Of course, there is also a kind of ‘feeling’ to recognize a horse in addition to the experience.” – Jan Tops told us about the unique feeling that only a great horse connoisseur can feel, then continued: “You have to deal with many facets from the relationship with people to build relationships with them. I’ve been doing this since I was 16.“
– What do you think can be relevant for a story about this world and increasingly highlight strategies, commitment, passion, and innovation?
“The Longines Global Champions Tour and the Global Champions League visit many of the most beautiful cities in the world every year (16 cities with very high prize money, in addition to the super Grand Prix of Prague, ed.) and Valkenswaard is also part of it.
In Formula 1, even a relatively unknown place like Zandvoort has become a household name and a suburb of London, like Wimbledon is considered the Mecca of tennis.” I want to do the same with Valkenswaard. I want to leave something special for future generations. Even if I enjoy it to the fullest.”
Rita Leo Verheyden
Photos provided by Jan Tops
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