Tokyo Olympics officials removed a statue of a sumo wrestler from the equestrian jumping course on Friday as questions surfaced over whether it scared horses competing in the event.
The sumo wrestler was swapped out before the start of Friday night’s competition. Officials said designer Santiago Varela had planned on removing the statue before riders had wondered whether their horses were being startled by the item.
Riders suggested that the big statue could be distracting their horses on the course. The statue sat next to the 10th obstacle in the jumping competition at Equestrian Park. The statue was turned away from the riders so when they made the sharp turn the riders and horses saw the sumo in his mawashi.
“As you come around, you see a big guy’s (butt),” British rider Harry Charles said earlier in the week, adding he noticed “four or five horses really taking a spook to that.”
Britain’s Harry Charles, riding Romeo 88, competes during the equestrian jumping individual qualifying at Equestrian Park in Tokyo at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
A few pairings pulled up short of the barrier in this week’s events and received penalty points that precluded them from the finals and a chance at an Olympic medal.
Israel’s Teddy Block said he and his coaches made it a point to slowly jog the horse over to the 10th obstacle before the official run so the animal can get used to the item.
“It is very realistic,” Vlock said. “It does look like a person, and that’s a little spooky. You know, horses don’t want to see a guy, like, looking intense next to a jump, looking like he’s ready to fight you.”
The course hurdles are decorated with Japanese cultural items ranging from the sumo wrestler to geisha kimonos and a mini Japanese palace.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.