Laura Phipps ..
Nintendo was founded in Japan. The powers at Nintendo created a character called Yoshi. Yoshi is known to have a variety of abilities that stand out relative to other characters. Yoshiaki Oiwa boasts abilities that stand out relative to other riders. It’s an unlikely but inextricable link but both have been ground-breaking in their respective industries for Japan. Yoshiaki (Yoshi) blasted into people’s minds when he created his own slice of history at Bramham International, by becoming the first Japanese rider to win a CCI event outside of the home country. Although some of those in the eventing community have known the much-liked 40-year-old for some time, he is perhaps lesser known in wider equestrian circles however, this win was a culmination of years of hard graft and dedication.
Rewinding and delving into Yoshi’s life is a pleasurable experience. It was almost destined in the stars that Yoshi would become a prominent sporting hero; his Aunt was an international figure skater and was an Olympic judge and his Uncle won a silver medal in swimming at the Rome Olympic Games. The journey to riding superstardom was ignited in high school which led to Yoshi riding for the equestrian team at university, where he was studying for a Business Marketing Degree. As part of the university equestrian competition, riders were required to complete cross-country as well as other disciplines. It was then that Yoshi became hooked on eventing and has been affording aficionados the thrill of watching his gung-ho style ever since. With the eventing passion flame well and truly burning, Yoshi decided to pursue this career further and left Tokyo where he was a successful business man, to take the large step and long journey of moving to the UK in 2001 – initially training with Andrew Hoy. Fast forwarding through the intervening years sees, what for many, would be career highlights – he competed in his first 3 day competition in 2002 at Burgie, his first 4* followed not too long after at Badminton of 2005, aboard his grand campaigner Voyou Du Roc, achieving a more than respectable 11th place, followed by a call up for the 2008 Olympics where he completed in 49th place. Several wins and placings were racking up which led to Yoshi making what would be a career defining move – in 2009 he moved to Germany to train with Dirk Schrade. By now it’s perhaps difficult to fathom how we ever glossed over his talents and he continued to go about breaking records under the radar. Another Olympic call up beckoned in London 2012 aboard Noonday De Conde – although ending in a bitterly disappointing elimination on XC, he did what no Asian rider ever has at a 3 day- glided to a lead in the dressage phase. Yoshi in 2014 then took over the ride of his standout horse, Duke of Cavan from Millie Dumas. Yoshi describes Duke as ‘a very powerful horse – a little too powerful for little Japanese man.’ This has been no barrier to success – the pair competed at the Rio Olympics impressing over a very tough XC track to wind up 20th and this season they won Barroca d’alba CIC3* before pulling out an assured and polished performance to finish 8th at Badminton, winning the Silver Jubilee Plate for best owner/rider. Five 4*’s, 2 worlds and 3 Olympics down but his story will not end there. Yoshi has worked tirelessly to make his goals of putting his country at the forefront of the international eventing scene a reality but it all seems to be slotting into place rather smoothly. Finishing in 4th place at Bramham was fellow teammate Tosiyuki Tanaka. The phrase ‘meant to be’ gets bandied around quite often but it seems their rise is coming at an appropriate time with Tokyo 2020 looming as large as their skyscrapers over Yoshi. “I’ve always wanted to tell people horse sports are great but i’ve never had the chance.” said Yoshi. “Tokyo is our chance to show our sport at the top level. I hope we can make up a competitive team.” One gets the feeling this previously little known eventing nation are here to stay and with that they can only get better.
Yoshi will now return to Germany to continue to train with Dirk Schrade after a job well done. However, laurels are not resting “I’m hoping to do a 4* with Duke of Cavan at the end of the year and Calle 44 will probably do another CCI3*.” said Yoshi as he discusses plans for the rest of the season. When questioned about a personal ambition it appears there is no question about it as Yoshi says “of course one day I would like to win a 4*.” It almost seems imprudent to ask, with 4* being the pinnacle but now Yoshi has laid down the gauntlet it is a given he will have a crack at it as aggressively as his cross country riding. “Maybe I started this sport late so I am still telling myself to be positive.” commented Yoshi when asked about his trademark attacking style. The power of positive energy may well lift Japan to dizzy heights come Tokyo 2020.