Sumo removed, but equestrian course designer defends choice

Aug 5, 2021, 2:22 PM | Updated: Aug 6, 2021, 7:21 am

TOKYO (AP) — A sumo wrestler that may have spooked the horses was knocked out of the Olympic equestrian ring Friday night, but the course designer is defending his decision to include the lifelike fighter in the first place.

The statue and a nearby patch of cherry trees that riders thought might be startling the animals during the individual jumping event were among the obstacles swapped out for the start of the team competition.

Course designer Santiago Varela had planned on removing the sumo wrestler for the team competition all along — the change had nothing to do with comments from riders saying the life-sized rikishi might be rankling their animals.

Still, Varela told The Associated Press he was certain the wrestler wasn’t at fault for several refusals on the 10th barrier Tuesday night.

“I think this is an artificial discussion,” he said after Friday night’s team qualifying. “I believe that someone goes to the media to say things that are not true, directly and simply. Horses have jumped very well in the arena.”

Several pairings in the early stages of Tuesday’s individual event stopped short near the sumo wrestler. The hurdle was located right after a sharp turn, and the wrestler’s wedgied backside was the first thing in sight for horse and human.

“As you come around, you see a big guy’s (butt),” British rider Harry Charles said, adding “I did notice four or five horses really taking a spook to that.”

The jumping course is always reconfigured between rounds, and several of the Japanese-themed barriers were swapped out Friday. The new fences include a life-size samurai and jumbo-size sushi.

Despite the minor drama, jumpers have been overwhelmingly complimentary of Varela’s design. Vivid — and potentially distracting — fences are a trademark of Olympic jumping venues, and in the end, it’s the riders’ jobs to keep their animals calm on the course, they say.

Varela said the Japanese decor was inspired by a visit to Tokyo and discussions with experts on the region’s culture and history. The Spanish designer chalked up Tuesday’s issues to inexperienced riders — the Olympic field generally includes a wider range of skill levels than other major equestrian events — and said he’d never include elements intended to trick the horses.

“Honestly speaking, I am not understanding this artificial discussion, because nobody called me and said, ‘OK, this is the reason that we are doing that,'” he said. “I am open to discuss about that without any problem, and I am not saying that I am right. I am saying that I believe that we built the courses in a fair way for the horses, because we always build thinking on the horses.

“I am not scared on this regard because, honestly speaking, I am very happy with the material.”

___

Follow Jake Seiner: https://twitter.com/Jake_Seiner

___

More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) drives against Phoenix Suns forward Josh Okogie (2) during ...
Associated Press

Doncic, Mavericks preserve big lead, roll past Suns 130-111

DALLAS (AP) — Luka Doncic scored 33 points, Spencer Dinwiddie added 21 and the Dallas Mavericks preserved a big lead against the Phoenix Suns this time in a 130-111 victory on Monday night. The Mavericks remained in control after a 28-8 run covering most of the last 10 minutes of the first quarter while ending […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Calmese scores 31 as Lamar beats Our Lady of the Lake 91-56

BEAUMONT, Texas (AP) — Nate Calmese’s 31 points led Lamar over Our Lady of the Lake 91-56 on Monday night. Calmese had five assists and five steals for the Cardinals (4-5). Cody Pennebaker scored 21 points while shooting 8 for 15, including 4 for 7 from beyond the arc, and added eight rebounds. Jakevion Buckley […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Kennesaw State knocks off Charleston Southern, 76-65

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Chris Youngblood had 16 points in Kennesaw State’s 76-65 victory against Charleston Southern on Monday night. Youngblood shot 4 for 9 (3 for 5 from 3-point range) and 5 of 5 from the free throw line for the Owls (6-3). Demond Robinson added 10 points while going 5 of 8 […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Gapare scores 15 off bench, UMass beats Albany (NY) 87-73

AMHERST, Mass. (AP) — Tafara Gapare scored 15 points off of the bench to lead UMass over Albany (NY) 87-73 on Monday night. Gapare had five steals for the Minutemen (7-1). Isaac Kante was 5 of 5 shooting and 4 of 4 from the free throw line to add 14 points. Keon Thompson recorded 13 […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Western Michigan defeats Concordia (MI) 94-50

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) — Markeese Hastings had 22 points in Western Michigan’s 94-50 victory over Concordia (MI) on Monday night. Hastings added 17 rebounds for the Broncos (3-6). Tray Maddox Jr. scored 22 points and added five rebounds. Seth Hubbard shot 4 for 9, including 4 for 6 from beyond the arc to finish with […]
20 hours ago
Memphis Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks (24) handles the ball ahead of Miami Heat forward Caleb Mar...
Associated Press

Jones’ career-high 28 points lead Grizzlies past Heat 101-93

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Tyus Jones had a career-high 28 points and 10 assists to lead the short-handed Memphis Grizzlies a 101-93 victory over Miami Heat on Monday night. Santi Aldama added 18 points and Dillon Brooks finished with 17 for Memphis, which played without leading scorer Ja Morant and several other key players. Tyler […]
20 hours ago
Sumo removed, but equestrian course designer defends choice