Daisuke Fukushima became the latest star of Japan’s stunning equestrian performance at their home Olympics as he came within seconds of a historic medal.
Partnered with his 13-year-old gelding Chanyon, Fukushima was one of just six athletes from an original field of more than 70 to qualify for the climactic jump off.
The 43-year-old had Japanese sports fans beaming as he soared faultlessly around a tough course that proved too much for global stars such as World No.1 and No.2 Daniel Deusser and Martin Fuchs.
Fukushima, originally from the city of Sakura, went out first in the jump off and for a brief period was in first place in the Individual Jumping final after yet another perfect round. He was very much in contention for his nation’s first Olympic medal since Takeichi Nishi’s iconic gold in the 1932 Games in Los Angeles.
Fukushima and Chanyon ultimately finished sixth in the final, with Ben Maher of Great Britain taking gold just ahead of stars Peder Fredricson and Maikel van der Vleuten.
But it was the performance of a lifetime from Fukushima, who followed compatriot Kazuma Tomoto – who finished fourth in Eventing – in being inspired to new heights by their home Games.
“I feel surprised by my result,” he told FEI.org. “It’s like a dream that I could take part in the jump off with these riders and horses that I so much admire.
“Of course, it’s a pity that we couldn’t ultimately secure a medal, but I am so happy that Chanyon and I achieved our best performance here.”
It was Fukushima’s second Olympic experience after he also appeared at Rio 2016. On that occasion he helped Japan to 13th in the Team competition but was eliminated in the first round of the Individual competition. He also helped Japan to Team silver at the 2018 Asian Games, and has appeared at two FEI World Equestrian Games.
With the support of millions of his compatriots and having seen Tomoto’s heroics in Eventing, Fukushima was able to reach new heights among the iconic Japanese symbols that illuminated the testing course at the Baji Koen Equestrian Park.
“I was impressed by Kazuma in Eventing so that influenced me to produce my good result,” said Fukushima, whose wife Aya is also an international show jumper.
“Can our performances influence the future of Japanese equestrian? The level here is still behind Europe, but with the results at Tokyo 2020 it may lead more people to understand the attraction of equestrian and may lead to progress.”
Picture: Libby Law