Anky van Grunsven is Only Rider to Compete at Every WEG

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Anky van Grunsven_JB_0392

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

LEXINGTON, Kentucky, Oct. 1–Anky, a single name recognized the world over as a superstar whose championship battles with Germany’s Isabell Werth kept the sport in the global spotlight for more than a decade, has created a new record–the only rider to have participated at every World Equestrian Games since they were created 20 years ago.

Competition focus for Anky van Grunsven is now on reining, and she made her first Dutch team for this WEG to keep intact her unbroken string of participation in combined world championships. Her 2008 Olympic and 2006 WEG mount, Salinero, was injured and her second horse, Painted Black, was sold to a Spanish student of hers.

The highlights of Anky’s equestrian career so far are nothing short of amazing: three Olympic individual gold medals, two world championship individual golds and nine-time World Cup champion.

At age 42 and the mother of two children, she is competing as a reiner, supports the dressage squad of which her husband, Sjef Janssen, is the chef d’equipe and she is the coach of the top Dutch eventer, Tim Lips.

Being the rookie on the reining team at Kentucky was not much different than when she competed at the first WEG in Stockholm in 1990. Now, at her sixth Games she appears to be busier than ever.

Anky van Grunsven on WhizashiningwallaBB © 2010 SusanJStickle.com
Anky van Grunsven on WhizashiningwallaBB © 2010 SusanJStickle.com

The competition venues are spread out at the Kentucky Horse Park–1.1 miles (1.8km), for example,  from the indoor arena where the reining is being held to the main stadium for the dressage–that “these Games are the most walked and biked of any,” she joked after going from the individual reining finals to coach her student in the eventing dressage.

Anky gave dressage-news.com her assessment of the previous WEGs that have developed into the world championships of all eight international disciplines–dressage, driving, endurance, eventing, jumping, reining and vaulting as well as para-dressage.

“For the spectators and you in the media,” she said, “it is so much better to have the different disciplines together wherever possible. For many people, especially those not in the horse business, they don’t want to have to go to one place for dressage and another for jumping. It is easier if it is all in one place.

“Look at the World Cups in Las Vegas (2005, 2007 and 2009) when they had dressage and jumping together. It was fantastic!”

Every WEG is different, she said.

Stockholm in 1990 where she finished 23rd on Prisco was huge but the dressage “did not feel like a big event.”

The Hague in 1994 was “very special for her” as she rode Gestion Bonfire to individual gold and the team won silver in her homeland.

Rome in 1998 where she and Bonfire won team and individual silver, but the judging was so bad that for the only time in her life “I thought I would quit dressage.”

Jerez in Spain in 2002 saw her finish 11th individually and 5th with the team on Krack C was “quite an experience” with a “very good atmosphere” created in part by the Spanish way of clapping–like a Flamenco beat. For her ride, she still laughs at Krack’s big jump during competition.

Anky van Grunsven and Salinero. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Anky van Grunsven and Salinero. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Aachen in Germany in 2006 was for her THE WEG. On Salinero, she won individual gold and individual and team silver.

“The crowds in the big stadium… completely sold out for the Kür, so much great atmosphere, it was so amazing, so special.”

Kentucky in 2010 is “the largest distance Games.” “I have never walked or biked as much as here.” While the venue is big–more than 1,200 acres (486 ha)–it is very pretty.

As for the main arena, she thought it may be too big with too many empty seats for most of the competitions as the atmosphere was better with a filled smaller stadium than a large one with a lot of empty seats.