Being ranked as number one in the world brings a lot of expectations. Especially in an Olympic year. And with expectations comes speculations. So, it’s not a surprise that there is a lot of talk around which horse Rolf-Göran Bengtsson will take with him to London. Will it be his Olympic silver medal winner from Hong Kong and 2011 European gold medalist Ninja La Silla, or will it be his faithful partner Casall La Silla ranked as the best horse in the world at the moment? WoSJ sat down with Rolf to find out.
One thing is for sure; both horses have had their seasons planned with the Olympics in mind. “The cursor was placed on the 4th of August and the competition calendar for both horses was planned backwards from there in order to give them both the best preparations,” Rolf says.
“My first choice for the Olympics would under normal circumstances be Ninja La Silla, but he has only been doing one show after the Global Champions Tour in Doha in April since it has taken him time to recover from the fever he got there. So, as things are now I am pending towards taking Casall La Silla with me to the Games,” Rolf explains. "Time is starting to run out as the Olympic Games are getting closer.
On the difference between Ninja La Silla and Casall La Silla as championship horses, Rolf says; “With Ninja La Silla I know precisely what I get. His experience in championships is his strength compared to Casall La Silla.” Rolf has no doubt that Casall La Silla’s also has abilities as a championship horse; “He has jumped many big Global Champions Tour Grand Prix classes, as well as other big Grand Prix’s. But I have never before put him in such a situation as the Olympics will be. The World Cup Final in Den Bosch in April was a test for him though, which he definitely passed!” On Casall’s current form, Rolf says; “Casall La Silla feels really good at the moment. He has only jumped four outdoor shows so far this year; in Hamburg, Wiesbaden, Cannes and Aachen – in Hamburg and Cannes he was second in the Grand Prix so he has shown great consistency,” Rolf says.
Although Rolf might have felt safer taking Ninja La Silla to London, he also feels that Casall La Silla has the qualities to fight in the top for a medal. But it’s a lot that needs to come together during those days in London. “I know how hard it is to end up on top though; you need to perform better than a 100 % to be in the top three at the Olympic Games. You also need to be lucky, and others need to have less luck – just look to the European Championships in Madrid. I wasn’t really a medal candidate ahead of the final, but I was lucky and others weren’t and I ended up with the gold,” Rolf explains.
Regardless of which horse he takes, Rolf is looking forward to London. “The Olympic Games are a highlight every fourth year! I have been blessed to end up with a medal twice; in Athens with the team in 2004 where we won the silver with Mac Kinley, and then in Hong Kong in 2008 when I took the individual silver with Ninja La Silla. The first time I rode the Olympics was in Atlanta, and then I was just happy to be a part of it – but now I have more expectations!”
For Rolf the Olympics are really something special. “Everybody knows what the Olympic Games are, which makes it different than the other championships. It’s not just about our sport; all athletes are brought together for this big event.” As a candidate for an Olympic medal, Rolf also feels the pressure. “Mostly it’s fun though, and I can live with it,” he explains. “But sometimes it’s hard to make people outside our sport understand that it is not always so easy with showjumping, as there are animals involved. It’s not only the rider that needs to have a good day; the horse needs to be on top as well. That’s what makes the equestrian sports different from other sports!”