A Conversation with the Olympic rider Taizo Sugitani

Taizo Sugitani riding Quincy (c) Stefano Secchi

Taizo Sugitani riding Quincy (c) Stefano SecchiBusto e Gorla Challenge Trophy 2024, Etrea , Busto Arsizio

Exploring the World of Equestrian Excellence

In the realm of equestrian sports, where grace, skill, and the deep bond between horse and rider take center stage, Taizo Sugitani emerges as a celebrated figure. Born in Izumi, Japan, on June 27, 1976, Sugitani’s journey into the world of horse riding began under the guidance of his father, Masayu Sugitani, a revered Olympic rider and proprietor of a renowned riding club.

Sugitani Deep Water Etrea 20240323 SS352050 1
Busto e Gorla Challenge Trophy 2024, Etrea , Busto Arsizio – ph.Stefano Secchi / ImageSS – Taizo Sugitani

After completing his education at the Canadian Academy in Kobe in 1996, Sugitani embarked on a transformative quest, seeking to refine his craft in the Netherlands under the mentorship of Henk Nooren, a former Dutch champion. This pivotal decision marked the genesis of Sugitani’s ascent to prominence in the domain of show jumping.

Representing Japan on the global stage, Sugitani’s illustrious career spans six consecutive appearances at the Summer Olympics, spanning from 1996 to 2016. His journey is adorned with notable achievements, including a commendable 11th place in team jumping at the 2000 Olympics and a notable individual performance, securing the 15th position in Athens in 2004.

Beyond the Olympic arena, Sugitani’s prowess extends to prestigious events such as the World Equestrian Games and the Asian Games, where he has clinched medals with his trusted companions. Notably, his fondest memory revolves around the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, USA, where he achieved a remarkable 10th place overall with his esteemed equine partner, Avenzio.

In this illuminating interview, Sugitani offers a glimpse into his remarkable journey, sharing insights into his experiences, the diverse array of horses he has ridden, and invaluable advice for aspiring riders. Join us as we embark on a captivating exploration of Sugitani’s enduring passion and unparalleled success in the realm of equestrian excellence.

Reflecting on Olympic Glory and Memorable Moments

Sugitani’s journey to Olympic glory is paved with unforgettable moments and profound experiences. “The best memory I had at WEG was in 2010 Kentucky, USA,” Sugitani recalls with a sense of nostalgia. “Avenzio and I finished 10th overall, and he gave me one hundred percent in every round. It was an incredible feeling to achieve such synergy with my horse on the grandest stage.”

Such moments of triumph are not limited to WEG. Sugitani’s success extends to the Asian Games, where he clinched medals with his trusted companions. “Avenzio and I won individual and team bronze at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, Korea,” he reveals, his voice brimming with pride. “And in 2019, Heroine De Muze and I secured the individual gold at the FEI Asian Championship in Pattaya, Thailand. These moments are extra special, as both horses have been with me since their early days.”

On Riding Preferences and Individual Horse Qualities Delving into the intricacies of his equestrian journey, Sugitani reflects on his preference for riding stallions, geldings, or mares. “I have no preference,” he states emphatically. “Mares can be difficult, but when you really need their help, they fight with you till the end. Ultimately, it’s about the individual horse’s qualities and the bond we share.”

Sugitani Quincy Etrea 20240323 SS352268
Busto e Gorla Challenge Trophy 2024 – Etrea , Busto Arsizio – 23 March 2024 – ph.Stefano Secchi / ImageSS – Taizo Sugitani riding Quincy

Insights into the Japanese and European Equestrian Systems

As one of the pioneers from the East to compete internationally in Europe, Sugitani offers profound insights into the nuances of the Japanese and European equestrian systems. “There is a huge difference between Japanese and European systems,” he acknowledges. “However, thanks to my father’s European knowledge and experience, I was well-prepared before venturing to Europe.”

Sugitani Quincy Etrea 20240323 SS352284
Busto e Gorla Challenge Trophy 2024 – Etrea , Busto Arsizio – 23 March 2024 – ph.Stefano Secchi / ImageSS – Taizo Sugitani riding Quincy

Expectations for the Future and Advice to Aspiring Riders

Looking ahead, Sugitani’s expectations remain steadfast. “I aim to keep striving for the top as long as possible,” he asserts, his determination palpable. “And should my boys want to continue riding, I hope to support them as my father supported me.”

In closing, Sugitani offers sage advice to aspiring equestrians, his words resonating with wisdom and experience. “Never lose sight of your passion,” he implores. “With dedication, hard work, and unwavering determination, anything is possible in the world of equestrian sports.”

In the grand tapestry of equestrian history, Taizo Sugitani’s legacy shines bright as a testament to the power of perseverance, the beauty of partnership between horse and rider, and the unyielding pursuit of excellence. As he continues to inspire generations of riders worldwide, Sugitani remains a towering figure in the annals of equestrian greatness, etching his name among the pantheon of legends in the sport.

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