Why Michael Jordan is the unlikely hero of Olympic show jumping champion Steve Guerdat
Michael Jordan has inspired many athletes around the world, but even the greatest basketball player of all time may be a little surprised to hear that his story has breached the walls of show jumping.
On paper, the two sports couldn’t be more dissimilar.
But the trials and tribulations that all Olympic champions experience in their careers can create a unique bond, and so it was that London 2012 equestrian gold medallist Steve Guerdat came to regard Jordan as his sporting hero.
“I’ve always been a sports fanatic, and his story is an inspiration,” the Swiss rider told FEI.org.
“Normally a superstar is really good over a short period of time, but with him you were never disappointed [each time he made a comeback].
“It was like a lesson of life and sport, about not giving up, and as a kid he was someone I was crazy about.
Jordan shines as USA 'Dream Team' strike gold
Jordan shines as USA 'Dream Team' strike goldMichael Jordan wins his second Olympic gold medal as he spearheads an unstoppable USA 'Dream Team' to basketball gold in Barcelona 1992.
Guerdat will need a comeback of his own, after seeing his high hopes for 2020 dashed.
The 37-year-old was hoping to marry his fiancee Fanny Skalli, become the first-ever four-time FEI Jumping World Cup champion, and win a second Olympic gold medal at Tokyo 2020.
But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the wedding and the sports events have all had to be postponed.
Despite this obvious disappointment, the current World No. 1 is determined to see the bigger picture and get back on the horse, so to speak.
“Nobody talks about the millions of kids around the world who don’t have clean water to drink, and are dying of hunger every single day,” he continued to FEI.org.
“We only think about how am I going to get to the shows, how am I going to pay for my Mercedes, how am I going to buy my new car and buy my new truck, and buy my new horse.
“It’s an experience, and for once it’s the same for everyone. So we have to look forward and maybe think about doing things differently - but there will be a way out of it.”
"The best horse that has ever been”
It's not only in 2020 that Guerdat draws inspiration from Jordan's comebacks, having suffered a few in his early career.
After winning team bronze at the Beijing 2008 Olympics and team gold at the 2009 European Championships, Guerdat suffered a loss of form. But with the help of his trusty steed Jalisca Solier, was able to get back to the top of the podium.
"Jalisca is basically the horse that made the biggest step in my career... I was healthy, but I was in a complete hole in my sporting career when that mare brought me into the spotlight, winning the Cup in Geneva (in December 2010) and she gave, all the time, 200% for me.
"She was the kindest horse you would ever find. She was always there fighting for me. She was the best horse that has ever been around for me!”
The Swiss rider built such a strong relationship with the horse that he rode to Olympic glory at London 2012, Nino de Buissonnets, that he decided to give him a home at his Zurich farm for retirement.
“What was so good about Nino is that we were clear 95% of the time. We also had some bad rounds, but from the time I really figured him out we had very few fences down. I didn’t jump him a lot, but most of the time he was double-clear in Grand Prix.”
Finals - Individual Jumping | London 2012 Replays
Watch Jordan’s Dream Team in action
You can catch Jordan and his Dream Team ‘92 teammates on Olympic Channel now, in new series Dream Team 1992 Revisited.
Every Thursday, a full game from USA’s victorious Barcelona 1992 Olympic campaign is aired in full, with new commentary from Rob Perez and Tom Kirkland.
Alongside other NBA stars like Magic Johnson and Charles Barkley, that Team USA roster is still considered one of the strongest ever to have taken the court.
Further details - including how you can watch for free and without subscription, plus the full schedule of matches being replayed - are right here on Olympic Channel.