Collins sets sights on multiple Olympics
Annabelle Collins is hoping the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer will not be her only appearance at the “Greatest Show on Earth”.
The Dressage rider qualified for Tokyo on her mount Joyero VG by claiming one of the region's four spots up for grabs, finishing second on points behind Yvonne Muñiz, of the Dominican Republic.
Collins will become only the second Bermudian to compete in dressage at the Olympics after Suzanne Dunkerley, who represented the island in Barcelona in 1992 and Atlanta in 1996.
Reaching the pinnacle of her sport is the realisation of a long-held dream for Collins, having narrowly missed out on qualifying for the London Games in 2012.
“I've had a few attempts at qualifying, but I haven't really had a horse like I have now,” Collins said. “Joyero is a fantastic horse; it's about having the right horse at the right time.
“Over the last 20 years, I've evolved as a rider where I know I can train horses to the top level. Maybe 15 years ago it was more difficult for me.
“With time, knowledge and age, I've improved over the years and figured out how to train horses myself and get to a high level.”
The 42-year-old has taken inspiration from Mary Hanna, Australia's oldest and most successful Olympic equestrian athlete, who has also qualified in the dressage for Tokyo at the age of 65, as well as Hiroshi Hoketsu, of Japan, who competed at the London Olympics aged 70.
“Mary Hanna is 65 and just broke her own personal best for Australia,” Collins said. “I think, ‘Well, I've still got time!' If you remain fit and strong, you can definitely go on.
“I don't see myself retiring in the next ten years or so. Definitely not.
“I hope this won't be my one and only Olympics. I have some great young horses at home and I really hope it's just the beginning. You go as long as you can.
“The thing about our sport is, it's very technical and it takes a long time to master.
“You never feel you ever really master it! You always feel there's something new to learn, new techniques and training methods.”
Collins enjoyed several impressive performances on the international stage last year and said it was satisfying to qualify with plenty of breathing room from a competitive region.
“I had to do a minimum of four competitions [to qualify for the Olympics] last year and they all went very well,” added Collins, whose brother Tim represented Bermuda in eventing at the Athens Olympics in 2004.
“I calculated my scores and knew I was ranked second behind Yvonne Muñiz, of the Dominican Republic.
“The zone is the Americas and the Caribbean, excluding Canada, Brazil and United States, who had already qualified.
“I was very happy to be ranked second out of many countries in the region. It was nice not to just scrape through.”
As she maps out her Olympic preparations, Collins is mindful of ensuring Joyero VG is fit and healthy for Tokyo and intends on “keeping him on the low boil” until closer to the Games, which run from July 24 to August 9.
“I don't want to do too much with my horse at the moment,” said Collins, who decided against attempting to qualify for the FEI World Cup finals in Las Vegas next month.
“It's important he's fit a month or two before the Games; I don't want to take any risks.
“It's important to choose the right competitions where you know the Olympic judges will be. You need to expose yourself and your horse to those judges before the Games so you don't come into the arena as an unknown. I will try to cleverly select competitions in May and June, where I think it will be beneficial for us to present ourselves before the Olympics.”