My sport is my passion

Isabell Werth (GER) has competed at six Olympic Games to-date. Her achievements so far: Seven gold medals and five silver. An interview with the 54-year-old about Olympic moments and the dream of Paris.

You won your first Olympic gold medal 32 years ago. What are your memories of the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992?

Taking part at the Olympics in Barcelona was a dream come true for me back then. Experiencing the Olympic Games for the first time was something very special. One’s perception of public awareness is totally different and the fact that all of the different sports come together is extremely exciting. But I tried to concentrate on myself and my horse. Because although I was only 22 at the time, as the reigning European Champion, I had travelled to Spain with high expectations. The fact that I ultimately won Gold and Silver was, of course, fantastic.


In Atlanta in 1996 as well as winning team gold you also finished at the top of the podium in the individual competition. How much did this victory influence your career long-term?

Winning an Olympic gold medal in the individual competition is the biggest victory one can achieve in our sport. I was already the reigning European and World Champion at the time. So, the Olympic victory completed my collection. That was a wonderful moment in my career – also or perhaps precisely because it had been a true rollercoaster ride getting there. Back then the individual ranking was worked out by adding the individual  competitions together and the Grand Prix Spécial didn’t go as   well as hoped, but then we managed to catch up in the freestyle. That was an incredible victory for me personally, but also for the team at my side.


You have collected countless titles in your sport. Do the Olympic medals have a special standing?

Yes, of course. The Olympic Games only take place every four years. It is every athlete’s dream to win a medal there. But of course that doesn’t mean the victories at the World or European Champion-ships can’t be just as significant or emotional. Here, the FEI World Equestrian Games Aachen 2006 spring to mind or Tryon in 2018, where I also enjoyed unforgettable moments with two very special horses.

Olympic Games have their own peculiarities. You have participated at six Games already. With which Games do you associate your best memories?

It is impossible to generalise. All of the Games I have taken part in so far were special in a different way. On the one hand it lies on the horses that accompanied me there and on the other hand also in terms of the locations themselves. In Barcelona everything took place compactly in one city, Atlanta was typically American and in Rio de Janeiro we were able to experience the special Brazilian joie de vivre. I also found Sydney particularly exciting. The crowd really let us know how delighted they were that all of us athletes had travelled to the other side of the globe. In Hong Kong, the riding competitions were held separately, which meant a bit of the Olympic flair was missing, of course. And in Tokyo the conditions were indeed excellent, but the atmosphere was almost spooky due to COVID.


Is there an Olympic moment that you particularly look back on?

No, there are a few. For example, thinking about Sydney, when I competed with Gigolo FRH at our third Games together. There aren’t many horses in the history of the Olympics, who have pulled off that feat. Being able to keep a horse competing at top sporting level over so many years, really is something special. I am very proud of that and enjoy looking back on it.


The Olympic Games in Paris are the major goal of all athletes this year. Are you dreaming of being able to take part at the Games one more time?

Of course. My sport is my passion. I still love training horses and enjoy competing. And as such, championships and hence also the Olympic Games in Paris are my declared goal. The fact that only three riders qualify for the team makes it particularly thrilling again this year. I will do my very best, but we will have to wait and see who ultimately makes it onto the team.


So far you have won gold seven times and silver five times at the Olympic Games. If you win one more gold medal you will replace the canoeist, Birgit Fischer, as the most successful German Olympic athlete. Do you think about that?

No, not at all. That was already a topic in the media prior to and  during the Olympic Games in Tokyo. But I didn’t think about it at all, I was totally focused on myself and my horse while I was there. I almost pulled it off, but only almost. This year a lot of fantastic teams with great pairs are competing. I think it will depend on the form of the day in the decisive moment in Paris. But for me personally, first of all I have to qualify. And then we will take it from there…