Laura Graves, U.S.’ top dressage rider, to miss Olympics

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Laura Graves, the U.S.’ top dressage rider and an Olympic medal contender, will miss the Tokyo Games after retiring her Rio Olympic bronze-medal horse Verdades.

“With the retirement of my longtime partner, Verdades (Diddy), it will no longer be possible for me to pursue a place on the team that will represent the United States in Tokyo,” Graves said in a statement via U.S. Equestrian. “This decision was not taken lightly, but was made in Verdades’ best interests.”

Graves, 32, announced earlier this week that “it became clear in recent weeks that [Verdades] was not going to be able to return to his usual top form in 2020.”

Verdades, an 18-year-old KWPN gelding, has been with Graves since he was 6 months old. Horses can live well into their 30s, and while there is no maximum age for a horse competing in the Olympics, 18 is generally considered senior, or close to it.

With Verdades, Graves helped the U.S. earn team bronze in Rio. its first dressage medal since 2004 and matching its best finish since the 1948 London Games. Graves also finished fourth individually, just missing the second-ever U.S. individual dressage medal.

Then in 2018, Graves and Verdades earned team and individual silver medals at the World Equestrian Games, essentially the world championships for the sport that take place every four years. Graves became the first U.S. dressage rider to move into the No. 1 spot in the world rankings.

“Diddy helped me reach goals and milestones that at times, I didn’t think were possible,” Graves said. “As I look back on all of our success, I continue to be moved by the support of the community, and the country, who invested in our journey throughout the years. Participating in the 2016 Rio Olympics is one of my fondest memories with Diddy, and I know the team is in good hands with the combinations who will represent our country this summer. We will be supporting and cheering them on every step of the way.”

Graves and Verdades dropped to seventh in the most recent world rankings. The next-highest U.S. rider is No. 11 Kasey Perry-Glass with Goerklintgaards Dublet.

Graves’ absence creates an opening for the three-rider U.S. Olympic team expected to be named in the spring. The current No. 3 American in the world rankings, excluding Graves, is Shelly Francis, a 61-year-old who could become the oldest U.S. Olympic competitor in any sport since 1904, excluding art competitions.

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