Olympic dream comes true for Ridgetown boy

Chris von Martels - Team Canada - Equestrian Olympic Team. Photo via Canadian Olympic Committee. July 6, 2021.

A rider from Ridgetown will be competing at the Tokyo Olympics later this month.

Chris von Martels was officially named a part of Canada’s equestrian team on Tuesday by Equestrian Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee.

The 38-year-old will be competing in his first Olympics in the dressage event but has plenty of experience, according to Equestrian Canada. In 2015, he earned individual bronze and team silver at the Pan Am Games in Toronto. Dressage is sometimes described as horse ballet.

“This has been a dream of mine since I was a young child,” said von Martels. “Of course I feel like it is a big accomplishment but my focus is to be my very best and represent our great country at the highest level.”

His mother Debbie von Martels is very proud of Chris’ accomplishment and said horses have been part of the family for generations.

“Both my husband and I are riders, are horse people. So, our kids started riding when they were very young and he was very much a natural at the sport as well as his sister, who is also a horse trainer in the same discipline,” said Mom.

Mrs. von Martels said the team is currently quarantining in Germany before heading to Tokyo.

She added that winning a medal would be nice, but just hopes they all ride their best. Von Martels said her son and his horse have only been together a short time and the one year delay has helped them build more chemistry. She also said her son is very happy that Eclips is in top shape and ready to go after a very successful season.

The family hopes that all of Chatham-Kent and the entire Canadian horse world cheer the team on.

“We are all very proud of him. He’s worked hard to get there and I think it’s the ultimate accomplishment when it comes to sports, to be on an Olympic team,” von Martels said.

Von Martels expressed some disappointed that her family can’t go cheer Chris on in person because the format is different due to the pandemic. Instead, she plans to watch on the edge of her seat back home in Ridgetown.

The equestrian events will take place July 24, 2021 to August 7, 2021 (Days 1 to 15).

Equestrian Canada said the equestrian athletes qualified for Team Canada based on performances that met the eligibility requirements of the International Federation of Equestrian Sports from January 1, 2019 to June 21, 2021.

Equestrian Canada said the team wasn’t officially announced earlier because they had to wait until the end of the appeals period and get approval from the Canadian Olympic Committee.

Equestrian Team Leader James Hood said the team will be ready to compete in Tokyo after spending almost 18 months managing the challenges of two pandemics, COVID-19 for humans and Equine Viral Herpes for the horses.

“Like everyone who has been targeting the Olympics, our equestrian team has had a lot to deal with this year,” said Team Canada’s Tokyo 2020 Chef de Mission, Marnie McBean. “On top of a global pandemic that affected people, they have had to manage another that affected the horses. These horse-rider teams have jumped, turned, sidestepped and high stepped their way to Tokyo with incredible talent. I’m so excited for them to continue Canada’s winning ways in the equestrian events.”

Chris lives in Wellington, Florida and co-owns his horse named Eclips with Barbara Soederhuizen.