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Swiss showjumper takes stock after Olympic delay

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London (AFP)

Martin Fuchs was dreaming of celebrating Olympic showjumping gold on his grey gelding Clooney 51, soaking up the atmosphere in the Japanese heat as the Swiss flag was raised.

Instead, the 27-year-old rider, who competed in Rio four years ago, has been forced to play a waiting game by the global coronavirus pandemic.

The European champion and world silver medallist began the year as world number one ahead of compatriot Steve Guerdat and was gunning for Olympic gold in Tokyo.

But Fuchs is confident that his horse will be up to the challenge at the postponed Games next year, and is enjoying aspects of the enforced break from his usual relentless schedule.

"It is obviously a disappointment as I was very excited and looking forward to the Olympics this year," he told AFP by phone from his stables in Wangi, Switzerland.

"But I think even next year Clooney will still be in a good shape as he won't be doing much this year because there is not much happening."

Fuchs hails from a family whose showjumping pedigree spans generations.

His grandfather was a showjumper and his father, Thomas, and uncle both represented Switzerland at the Olympics. His uncle, Markus Fuchs, won silver in the team event at the 2000 Sydney Games.

Fuchs said the postponement of events had meant a big upheaval but not to his routine at home, where he rides "four or five of his eight good horses daily".

"We have our staff and grooms working," he said. "My Dad mostly is still riding a lot or training and putting up fences. Not going to shows is not such a big difference to daily life.

"No shows, no dealing or trading going on but still same work going on, just there is no income anymore."

As a result Fuchs, whose hunger for competition began aged seven competing on a pony called Cleopatra, says they have had to dig into their reserves.

"Definitely for us now it is a bit rougher as no prize money or trading," he said. "But we managed over the past years to put money aside so we can touch that now to pay for things."

- 'A step back' -

Fuchs, who finished sixth in the team event and joint-ninth in the individual competition in Rio in 2016, says spending time at home has been a rare joy.

Showjumping is at times a remorseless sport and at one point last year he spent 17 successive weeks on the road.

"Times like this it is good to be open-minded and see other things apart from the horses," he said.

"It is good to take a step back and enjoy my time going for walks, reading a book or doing a puzzle. It is an interesting time to think about other stuff.

"It is completely different to what one is normally used to."

Despite the positive side of the enforced break, Fuchs hopes to return to some form of normality later in the year with the Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumping in his sights after victory in Geneva.

To succeed he has to win the Spruce Meadows "Masters" in Canada in September and at Aachen in Germany, postponed from its original date to later in the year due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Winning the Grand Slam -- victory at three consecutive majors -- brings a one-million-euro ($1.1 million) bonus on top of prize money.

But Fuchs' task is tough -- just one rider, Britain's Scott Brash in 2015, has achieved the feat before.

"It would mean a lot to win the Rolex Grand Slam by winning three of the majors," he said. "They are the most prestigious events in our sport."

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