Countdown to Tokyo: Cork's Shane Sweetman jumped at Olympic dream

'The form is good, but heat and humidity will be a factor. I’m lucky in that I live in Florida, so I will be acclimatised for Tokyo'
Countdown to Tokyo: Cork's Shane Sweetman jumped at Olympic dream

Shane Sweetnam of Ireland during the team parade prior to the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup of Ireland at the Stena Line Dublin Horse Show 2019 at the RDS. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

CASTLEMAGNER native Shane Sweetnam will represent team Ireland at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

Speaking to The Echo from his home in Florida, Shane said that his selection on Ireland’s show-jumping team to take part in the Tokyo Olympics was a dream he had all his life, but now he was going to the Games with the intention of winning a medal.

“It’s been a dream I’ve had all my life to compete at the Olympics for Ireland,” said Sweetnam, “When I started representing my country, the dream became closer and closer.”

Spurred on by the encouragement of his horse-loving parents, Shane Sweetnam began riding at the age of just the age of five.

He began his Grand Prix career at age 16 and has since participated in classes in both North American and Europe.

He moved to the United States in 2004 and got a job working with US Olympic veteran Margie Engle.

Sweetnam has achieved many key wins in his impressive career, and he has been a regular member of Team Ireland in recent years.

Speaking about the sport of Showjumping, Shane said: “Obviously back in the day, showjumping was a huge thing, you had the likes of Eddie Macken, Paul Darragh, Con Power, those days it was on TV a lot and there were lots of big shows in Ireland.

Now, it mightn’t be as popular in Ireland, but it has grown a lot bigger worldwide. 

"Obviously, it’s not just about been a good rider, you had to have a good horse to compete at that level and they’re very rare. It’s an all-year circuit, there’s no real rest and it’s not just about having one good horse, you need multiple horses at that level to be able to compete at that level.”

Also on the Irish team named by Chef d’Equipe Michael Blak are Cian O’Connor, who won a bronze medal at the London Olympics in 2012. Bertram Allen from Wexford is also on the team, along with Darragh Kenny from Offaly.

“We’ve had a good year so far. The horses have been in good form.”

Shane Sweetnam and Chaqui Z. Picture: Erin Gilmore
Shane Sweetnam and Chaqui Z. Picture: Erin Gilmore

Sweetnam was riding Alejandro during his recent Florida success but will be taking Karlin Van’t Vennehof to Japan.

He is confident that the Irish team will do well in Tokyo.

“There are a lot of Irish riders in the top 50 rankings,” he pointed out.

Sweetnam himself is at number 26, and his recent run of form could see him make further advances on that list. The team won the European Championships in 2017, and three of the four riders who competed then will be on the squad for Tokyo.

“The form is good, but heat and humidity will be a factor also. I’m lucky in that I live and work in Florida, so I will be acclimatised with the level of heat and humidity we will experience in Tokyo.”

From speaking to Shane Sweetnam, it’s very clear he has high hopes ahead of the Olympics.

We have a great team; we are going for a medal. It’s very exciting for all the family. My parents are still in Castlemagner, Marie and Gerry. They have been a big driving force in my career.”

The equestrian competitions will begin Saturday, July 24.

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