Representing Ireland at an Olympics is a major event for any sportsperson. Gavin Hyland speaks to Olympian Judy Reynolds about Rio 2016 and her chances of being at Tokyo 2020.
Fifteen years ago, Judy Reynolds moved to Germany with no knowledge of the language and nowhere to live. She was supposed to be there for nine months to compete in dressage but the Irish Olympian is still living there today.
Reynolds has performed in three world equestrian games, three European dressage championships, the dressage world cup and the Olympic Games in Rio.
“The Olympics is the pinnacle of what you want to achieve, it is different and there is something very special about it. The best of the best are there representing their country,” said Reynolds.
Reynolds speaks patriotically about the honour of representing Ireland and the overwhelming experience of walking through the Olympic village.
Competing in international competitions has allowed Reynolds to see many interesting places. “We do get to see many amazing places, from Doha and a small village in Poland to competing on the Austrian Alps.”
She said: “We do enjoy these places, but it is never like a holiday. We are always focused on the competition.”
Rio was special for Reynolds as she finished a very impressive 16th in the individual event. She puts her good performance partly down to good preparation. “We were in Rio 12 days before competition and that is a long time to work with just one horse,” explained Reynolds.
Speaking to the Kildare native, it is obvious that she puts herself under immense pressure to perform to the best of her ability and she is acutely aware that despite living in Germany for 15 years, she is representing Ireland.
The future looks bright for Irish equestrian as the showjumping team won gold at the European Championships and individual bronze.
“Dressage in Ireland at grassroots level is growing hugely and we are climbing high in the world rankings,” according to Reynolds.
Many people still find the financial cost for equestrian sports as the largest hurdle but Reynolds says this is improving.
“The cost is always going to be somewhat high because it is expensive to take really good care of horses but there are heavily subsidised camps for those who want to get involved but worry about the cost.”
The future of the sport may also be improved if Reynolds makes it to the Olympics in 2020. “I really want to go in 2020 but it all depends on Vancouver K, JP to us.”
Reynolds says the horses are essentially her partner when it comes to competing.
“We are working hard with other horses coming up behind Vancouver K, so hopefully we will be ready by the time 2020 comes around.”
It is too soon for Reynolds to be contemplating retiring but for her, Ireland is home. “If I could do what I do here (Germany) in Ireland, I would,” said Reynolds.
The Olympian has had a hugely successful career to date and based on her determined tone and focused attitude towards competing, it is fair to say her career is far from its final hurdle.