Rachel Watts – International Super Groom

Congratulations to Rachel Watts DipEM’05, Head Groom with Shane Rose, who after a year of “will we stay or will we go?”, managed to add another Olympic Games to her list of achievements and, even better, help secure a silver medal for the Australian Equestrian Team in Tokyo.

Just one month out from competition the Australian Olympic Committee put paid to the rumours and doubt and told Rachel and Shane they were going. Two weeks later, Rachel stayed onsite as Virgil, Shane’s 16-year-old gelding, started Pre-Export Quarantine.

“Virgil handled PEQ and the flight really well. We had a great trip over. He had flown before so that really helps, they know what they’re doing and that they need to relax and sit it out.”

The COVID-delayed Olympics’ organisers left little to chance with safety measures in place from go to woah which made Rachel feel safe.

“In Australia, anyone who was named as an athlete or official could go into Sydney and get fully vaccinated. It was highly recommended that we do so and about 90% of people, across all sports were fully vaccinated,” she said. “To go there we didn’t have to quarantine but we had COVID tests three times before we left Australia, one when we first arrived, and then daily. Then it was the same as here with social distancing, washing hands all the time, not staying in buildings for too long.”

Arriving nine days before competition meant the Australian Equestrian Team, including Andrew Hoy on Vassily De Lassos and Kevin McNab on Don Quidam, was keen to make a start. After dressage on day one, Australia was in sixth place.

“We had all hoped it would be a bit higher, but we knew we had three very good horse and rider combinations in the jumping phase, so we didn’t think we were out of it by any stretch of the imagination. Then cross country came around and I’ve never been with a team that’s worked so hard and so well together across all areas.”

After rocketing up the table to claim silver, they were unable to celebrate immediately with horses to care for and COVID limiting their movements, but that didn’t dampen the thrill.

“There were a few tears shed. We felt such great support from home and not just from equestrian people. I think it was a COVID thing where people needed to watch something, to look forward to it. It was great feeling that it brought joy to people to watch the Olympics for a couple of weeks so they could forget about things that were happening in the world. I think it made for a lovely distraction. This one is the best one yet.”

Congratulations again to Rachel and the entire Shane Rose Eventing Team.

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