All Olympians face a certain level of pressure. Returning to the Games after a previous legendary performance only brightens the spotlight more, as Simone Biles and Katie Ledecky can probably attest.
Spaniard Severo Jurado, who is in Tokyo to compete in his second Olympics, has spent the past five years facing an unusual kind of pressure. You may not recognize his name, but you may well remember his performance at the Rio Games. One of the viral sensations of the 2016 Olympics – and definitely the most unlikely – emerged from the individual equestrian grand prix freestyle dressage event, in which jockeys lead horses through choreographed dance routines. You knew him at the time as Smooth Horse, the horse that danced to fifth place to a remix of Carlos Santana’s “Smooth” featuring Rob Thomas (and, as fewer people seemed to notice at the time, a shorter sample of “It’s My Life ”by Bon Jovi). Lorenzo, the equine of the same name, received most of the attention. But Jury chose the song.
So how do you get over that? Apparently you can’t. You see, after spending time worrying about what the encore would be, she had a very busy run-up to the Olympics that included the birth of her daughter in Denmark two days before the qualifiers in Germany. Then Jurado relented. He will compete in the team grand prix in the opening days of the Games, and if he qualifies for the individual freestyle event on July 28, he will start on the same track.
Same songs. Same choreography. That’s right, Smooth Horse is back … something like. Everything is the same except the horse.
Jurado grew up on a farm with many animals in southern Spain. At 17, he and his entire family could see how much he loved horses, so he entered a private riding school to educate himself as a professional.
As an adult, he moved to Denmark and eventually joined the Helgstrand Dressage stable. He has worked with many horses, enough to know that he had something on the charming chestnut gelding, Lorenzo.
Lorenzo was initially brought to the barn with the intention of being sold, which, according to Jurado, is a large part of Helgstrand’s business. He advised against it.
“After a couple of months, I felt like it was something different,” says Jurado. “It was a bit special. I tried to let them know that, that he was something else. At first, they did not believe so much in the horse. Because it didn’t look that special. But when you sit on it and ride, you can feel it. “
He began participating in events with Lorenzo, and after about a year and a half, they qualified for the first Jury Olympics. And they did it by doing the same routine that everyone saw later in Rio.
“The last classified in Germany, people reacted very, very crazy,” Jurado recalled. “In Germany, that level of competition, normally the audience is very good, very quiet, they only applaud when you finish.”
He says his performance provoked ridicule. That’s because he had finished fourth, behind three Germans, and Jurado says the normally partisan crowd thought he should have finished higher than his own compatriots.
“Later, when the judges gave the scores, people booed a lot,” he says. “It was very intense, actually.”
All of this took place an ocean away from the United States, but Jurado’s moment was fortunate for an American audience that was starving for this particular soundtrack.
This is almost impossible to explain, especially for those who don’t live in the world of viral tweets and Reddit memes, but Smooth, which came out in 1999, was kind of Song of the Summer 2016. Yes, the song that was the final Billboard The number one hit of 99 and the first of 2000 was resurfacing, visible in Pandora’s stats, according to this article from Daily point dated July 14, 2016, three weeks before the opening ceremony.
Two days before Jurado’s performance, a tweet that has since been deleted from the Internet for copyright infringement featured the song dubbed over a Katie Ledecky clip after she had beaten the competitors in the pool. It was inexplicably funny in an innocent way from 2016 to see how far we could go in the song’s funky beats before another swimmer finally hit the wall second. The answer: all the way to, “Man, it’s hot.” The video survives in a different tweet here, although who knows for how long.
So when Jurado released the song, he had a feeling it would be a hit in Rio, but there was no way of knowing what kind of popularity was about to fall on him online. Smooth Horse was written about everywhere from sports websites to Billboard Y Mashable. James corden cheerfully showed a clip on The Late Late Show and yelled, “It’s amazing!”
Even if Smooth received most of the attention, Jurado points to the second song as the most significant part of the accompaniment. “For me it was a very special moment,” he says. “That horse, it was my chance, and I couldn’t miss it. That’s why I chose Bon Jovi with the phrase “It’s now or never.” Because I think that describes a lot, the situation and the moment I was living that year ”.
But again he finished outside the top three, and again he was booed by many in the crowd, like Ringer writer Rodger Sherman narrated from the place for SB Nation.
There have been some notable sports breakouts in the last year or so. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. James Harden and the Houston Rockets. A-Rod and J.Lo. So you can be forgiven if this division went a bit under the radar.
Jurado trained for the originally scheduled 2020 Olympics and says he qualified with a new horse, Fiontini. But after the Olympics were postponed on March 20, forcing runners to requalify, Jurado struck out on his own and started a new stable, Jurado Dressage. The old stable he wished the five-time world champion all the best.
Jury Dressage has a staff of four, and says that while it has been a lot of work, the amount has not surprised him. He knew exactly what he was getting into.
Jurado began training with another new horse, Fendi. I spoke to him at the beginning of May and he said he was having a hard time in qualifying as Fendi didn’t have much experience. He seemed skeptical, but said, “I need to hurry up a bit and do my best. I will keep working and fighting until the last second. And I hope to be able to recover the time and be qualified for this year again ”.
Music was also at the forefront of his mind.
“I want to repeat what I did [in Rio], but is very difficult. I am working hard to try to prepare the horse and prepare the music. Of course, I will try to keep my style. I like this style of Latin music that represents me and my character. And my horse is really very sweet. So I hope I can do something nice in time. “
Lorenzo has been on his own journey since 2016. He was sold after the Olympics, as Jury knew he would eventually be, to American Charlotte Jorst. After the sale, he suffered an injury, and returned to Helgstrand, which is now the owner again, according to Jurado. Lorenzo is healthy and racing again with a new driver, the Swedish Jeanna Högberg.
(I made several attempts to talk to Högberg to fill in some of the details about Lorenzo’s whirlwind over a couple of years. She politely responded to a couple of emails, but we were unable to connect by phone.)
Their paths converged when Europe’s best cyclists returned to Germany for another year of Olympic qualification for the rescheduled Games. Jurado wasn’t sure he would make it, not because of his horse but because of the imminent birth of his first child. Their daughter, Paul, was born on July 1, and then quickly moved to the city of Aachen to compete on July 3. “It was a bit stressful and I didn’t get much sleep,” he says, “but it didn’t! “
Fendi went ahead and Jurado found his horse just in time to qualify for the Spanish contingent in Tokyo.
And Högberg was there with Lorenzo, now 15 years old. Because he was trying to represent Sweden at the Olympics, they weren’t actually competing with each other. So Jurado was able to qualify on his new horse and keep rooting for the old one.
Högberg said by email that she finished fourth among the Swedes, falling just below the standings, but earning a spot as a substitute. He stayed in Aachen with the Olympic riders to quarantine them in case a venue was opened, which meant a very happy Jury, being able to spend time with his two horses.
“It was very beautiful for me to see these two animals together,” says Jurado.
He posted a video on Instagram that showed him feeding his two horses, allowing them to share a banana.
When we reconnected after qualifying, I asked him if Lorenzo was excited to see him.
“I wish! I want to think so,” he said. “He was happy, but I also had the banana.”
Högberg and Lorenzo did not fly to the Olympics, but Jurado and Fendi traveled to Tokyo, where the dressage action begins immediately. You will have to finish in the top 15 to qualify for the individual grand prize. If you don’t, no one will be able to see Fendi’s version of the Santana classic.
In fact, Jurado ended up without performing the routine in Germany, so he said few people are aware of his plan to play the same music.
Like any band with an old favorite, sometimes you just have to play the hits. And with a young horse and the stress of the new baby’s arrival, she decided to stick with a song she knows well. And in particular, we still don’t know if it will make it that far in the competition. Jurado is less confident than five years ago.
“[Fendi is] an extremely sweet horse, and he has a big heart, and he always does his best, ”he says, but his expectations are measured. “This year it is an incredible experience for him to participate in the Olympics, but he is not strong enough at this level to fight for a medal.”
Which sadly means that we may not get to hear “Suave” at these Games. But that doesn’t mean dressage will go back to sober old music from the pre-Smooth Horse era. Given the reaction to Jurado’s routine in Brazil, he says some riders have improved their game.
Patrik Kittel of Sweden (who had to withdraw from the Olympics when his horse was injured in Tokyo) has been rocking out at Guns N ‘Roses competition, like this ride combining “November Rain” and “Welcome to the Jungle”. Cathrine Dufour from Denmark has adopted using the song “Bohemian Rhapsody” by QueenAlong with booming drums, on top of an appropriately named Bohemian horse.
Depending on the routines used in Tokyo, the success of cyclists using more popular music, and a possible surge in interest, this could have a lasting impact on the sport. And if it ushers in a new era of Olympic dressage, there will be no question who started the trend.
It was all over the internet.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.