Annika Schleu’s hopes of winning a medal in the pentathlon were ended in harrowing fashion after her horse Saint Boy refused to jump.
Schleu, representing Germany in Tokyo, entered the event with a commanding lead and looked set to clinch the gold emphatically, but she then quickly plummeted down the rankings after the equestrian leg.
Her horse appeared spooked before and after entering the arena, and aimlessly made his way around the challenging course while refusing several jumps.
Annika Schleu was reduced to tears after her horse Saint Boy refused to jump in the pentathlon
Coverage seemingly showed an emotional Schleu, 31, in floods of tears before even beginning her performance. While on top of her mount, she looked to get the panicked Saint Boy to co-operate using her whip.
Having then made their way into the arena, Schleu set about attempting to salvage her dreams of a podium finish. However, despite the horse clearing four sets of hurdles to begin with, he then collided with the fifth.
That brought a rapid end to her lead, and Saint Boy then buckled despite Schleu looking to guide him around the course for another go. In the end, she was made to finish with zero points, leaving her rock bottom.
Saint Boy was notably spooked during the event and would not co-operate for a tearful Schleu
Schleu, representing Germany in Tokyo, was in floods of tears during the horror performance
Having narrowly missed out on a medal in Rio 2016, after finishing fourth, Schleu was again left devastated. Her tears were broadcast for all to see as Saint Boy jumped around, remaining alarmed and in no fit state to compete.
She had held the equivalent of a 24-second advantage after the fencing and swimming legs, but fell out of contention for silverware for the laser round.
But Samantha Murray, an Olympic silver medallist and world champion, believes that the nightmare nature of the performance came about largely due to ‘rider error’.
‘When you try to break it down, you can see that it’s largely rider error, the mistakes,’ she said. ‘I think she was quite put off, because when this horse first went into the arena in the first round, she was eliminated on this horse.
Despite holding a 24-second lead, Schleu fell out of medal contention after the equestrian leg
Samantha Murray, a silver medallist, believes that the performance was down to ‘rider error’
‘That probably set a bit of a panic off with this athlete. So when she would have got on this horse, she would have been a bit stressed. That transcends into the horse. Horses can’t see the rider, they can only feel you when you’re on top.
‘You need composure, and you need to be very decisive with what you’re going to do when you’re riding.
‘In the moments when she was crying and panicking, I understand why she was like that, but you just wish she’d let the reins loose a bit and rode more with her leg. Really give the horse as much positivity as possible, ride forward, encouragement.
Schleu looked dejected during the rest of the event, and Team GB’s Kate French clinched gold
‘You saw, when she came to the fences correctly, the horse jumped. When she came on the wrong stride, not quite there, not quite close enough, the horse stopped, because the horse was losing confidence all the way through that.
‘These horses need to feel as confident as possible with you, an unknown rider to them.’
The chaos saw Great Britain’s Kate French claim gold, in what is Team GB’s first triumph for 21 years in the event.