Olympic villain's 'shock' over brutal backlash

1 month ago 10
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Modern pentathlete Annika Schleu has defended herself against horse cruelty claims after wrenching scenes at the Tokyo Olympics.

Schleu went from first to last in the event thanks to a disastrous outing in the show jumping discipline. Due to a bizarre rule of modern pentathlon, she was not riding her own horse, but an animal she'd met just 20 minutes earlier.

The horse - a gelding called Saint Boy - refused to jump and Schelu was left in tears, her Olympics ruined. She reacted by striking the horse vigorously with her crop and spurs, sparking outrage.

She denied that she had acted with cruelty towards the animal, calling the backlash "shocking".

Annika Schleu from Germany after her horse refused to jump. (dpa/picture alliance via Getty I)

"The hatred I encountered on social media has masked the disappointment about the missed medal," she told Germany's Die Zeit newspaper.

"I did not treat the horse extremely harshly. I had a crop with me that was checked beforehand. Exactly like the spurs. I am really not aware of any cruelty to animals.

"I started crying relatively quickly. I was so tense because I realised that the competition could be over before I even started riding. The seconds that passed then felt much longer to me. It was a hopeless, difficult situation for the horse and for me."

Some of the criticism was high-profile, including from Big Bang Theory star Kaley Cuoco; who is married to an equestrian and rides herself. She slammed Schleu and offered to buy the unfortunate horse.

"I feel it's my duty and heart to comment on this disgrace," Cuoco wrote on Instagram. "This is not Olympic show jumping. This is a disgusting, classless, abusive representation of our sport in so many ways. This team should be ashamed of themselves.

"You and your team did not do your country proud or this sport. You make us look bad. Shame on you and godspeed to any animal that comes in contact with you.

"Pure classless behaviour right here. Disgusting on all levels. This is not our sport. This does not represent our sport.

"This rider and her 'trainer' are a disgrace. I'll buy that horse outright and show it the life it should have. Name your price."

Kaley Cuoco (BBC)

Schleu, who placed fourth at Rio 2016, admitted that she could have "reacted a little more calmly" in the situation but insisted that she did not deserve such heated criticism.

"Of course it does something to me. It doesn't feel nice. I did not expect this severe assessment from the outside," she said.

"I'm almost ready to say that it is more important to me to cope with it mentally than to generate sponsors. I don't want to have to expose myself to this hatred."

"Once you've experienced something like me, it's very difficult to recover from it."

The horse, Saint Boy, of Annika Schleu from Germany refuses to jump. (dpa/picture alliance via Getty I)

A German coach, Kim Raisner, also proved to be a villain during the equestrian meltdown.

Heard telling Schleu to hit the horse harder, she also leant over the fence and punched Saint Boy. She was suspended for the remainder of the Games.

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