Modern pentathlon star Annika Schleu has rejected claims of cruelty after the German athlete and her coach’s treatment of their horse at the Tokyo Olympics.
In one of the most iconic moments of Tokyo 2020, Schleu was seen bursting into tears after failing to control Saint Boy, who bucked and refused to jump on the course, ending her hopes of a medal in the event, with Great Britain’s Kate French winning gold.
Schleu’s coach Kim Raisner was banished from the Games for striking the horse with a fist, conduct that was “in violation of the UIPM competition rules”.
But Schleu has now defended her own actions and those of Raisner, a former modern pentathlete who competed at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, claiming that the situation made her feel “hopeless”.
“The hatred I encountered on social media has masked the disappointment about the missed medal,” Annika Schleu 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.”
While Schleu acknowledged the wave of online abuse has been difficult to accept, leading to her closing her online accounts.
“Of course it does something to me. It doesn’t feel nice,” she said. “I did not expect this severe assessment from the outside.
“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.”
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