The Horse That Didn’t Win. A Different Kind of Olympic Victory.
Not all stories of Olympic victory are about medals. There are other stories which speak of courage, dignity and spirit which don’t end on the podium. This is one of those stories.
Parzival is a Dutch horse who had what seemed to be a minor piece of bad luck. He was bitten on the face by an insect. That’s a pretty routine thing to happen when you’re a horse, but then the bite became infected. He developed a fever and fell very ill.
Adelinde Cornelissen is Parzival’s rider. But she’s more than that. She’s his friend and constant companion. When Parzival got sick, she stayed by his side, even sleeping in his stall at night while he struggled to get well.
Cornelissen and Parzival were entered in a dressage competition and the rider asked the organizers to move her place in the order so that Parzival would have more time to recover. They refused to allow her request.
Cornelissen then had to make a very hard decision. Her teammates were counting on her to succeed, and Parzival had been given a clean bill of health. His temperature was back to normal and he was eating and drinking well. Still, Cornelissen struggled because she felt that Parzival might not yet be fully recovered.
The decision to go ahead was made with a heavy heart. The vet gave Parzival the green light and Cornelissen made her final preparations to enter the ring. She didn’t want to let her team mates down, and Parzival gave every indication that he was ready to compete.
On Tuesday, they began their routine but within a few movements Cornelissen could sense that something wasn’t right. She raised her arm, gestured to the crowd, and left the stadium. Her Olympic dream was in tatters.
Parzival and Cornelissen have been together for nineteen years. They’re both fighters. Horse and rider tried valiantly to support the team and come a step closer to their dream of Olympic gold. They didn’t make it because Cornelissen chose the protection of a friend over personal ambition. She chose the wellbeing of a horse over the glory of victory.
What happened on Tuesday is a testament to the true spirit of what it means to be an Olympian.