Sport: Equestrian-Eventing great Klimke follows in father's footsteps with first dressage medal

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FILE PHOTO: Germany's Klimke © Reuters/REUTERS FILE PHOTO FILE PHOTO: Germany's Klimke

By Hritika Sharma

(Reuters) - Germany's Ingrid Klimke is best known for her superb record in eventing but the latest addition to her medal collection came in dressage - the discipline in which her late father Reiner was one of the most successful riders in history.

FILE PHOTO: Equestrian - Eventing Team Victory Ceremony © Reuters/Tony Gentile FILE PHOTO: Equestrian - Eventing Team Victory Ceremony

Klimke, now 54, started to work with horses at a very young age and has enjoyed a long and successful career spanning over two decades, winning 15 eventing medals, including two Olympic and two world golds in team eventing.

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On Sunday, Klimke competed at a major dressage event for the first time and marked her world championship debut by helping Germany win the team bronze in Herning, Denmark.

"It was just a wonderful experience," Klimke told Reuters. "Absolutely fantastic. I really enjoyed it so much. It was a very, very great pleasure to have the chance to compete there."

Klimke's father Reiner, who died from a heart attack in 1999 aged 63, was a multiple Olympic, world and European dressage champion and also won a team eventing gold at the 1959 European Championships.

By winning the team dressage bronze last week, Klimke followed in her father's footsteps by claiming medals in two equestrian disciplines but said she never felt any pressure to emulate his achievements.

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"I grew up with him being successful, so it was nothing new," said Klimke, who won Olympic gold at the Beijing Games in 2008 and in London four years later.

"From him, I learned the dressage from the beginning and received training in the classical principles, how to start with young horses and bring them step-by-step into the sport.

"That, for sure, helped me a lot... My father died in 1999 my first Olympics was in 2000 in Sydney. It was very emotional."

Klimke, who earned fourth place finishes with Germany in team eventing at Sydney and in 2004 in Athens, added team silver to her two golds at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

A serious injury last year meant Klimke could not compete at her sixth Games in Tokyo, where she had qualified for eventing and dressage, but she is looking to make amends by targeting an Olympic return in Paris in 2024.

Klimke fractured a thoracic vertebra after falling off her horse in training and underwent surgery in June 2021, ruling her out of the pandemic-delayed Olympics in July and August.

"It was very bad timing, because Tokyo was one year later and I was qualified with two horses in dressage and eventing," Klimke said. "Unfortunately, it was exactly at that time that I had to be in the hospital and I couldn't do it.

"It was quite a setback but after coming back I feel healthy and happy. It was an incredible experience to win the bronze medal in dressage with the team.

"I was a little sad that I couldn't go to Tokyo, so my next Olympic goal is Paris."

(Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Hyderabad; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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