No stranger in making history, Japan’s Yoshiaki Oiwa has done it again by winning the 2017 Equi-Trek CCI3* at Bramham International Horse Trials in North Yorkshire, Great Britain. He is the first Japanese rider to ever do so. Aboard the flashy, ten-year-old Holsteiner gelding, Calle 44 (Cristo x Sara IV), the pair dazzled the crowd on the final day of competition on June 11, 2017, finishing on a score of 45.4, a solid 2.7 points ahead of second-placer finisher, Britain’s Gemma Tattersall.

The 41-year-old rider first made history after putting Japan on the eventing world map in 2012 when he led the dressage at the London Olympic Games. He was the first Asian rider to lead any, four star, three-day event. Based in Germany, Oiwa has been riding full-time since 2011 and trains under legendary Olympic gold medalist, Dirk Scrade.

With three years to go until the opening ceremonies of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Oiwa has his sights set on the future to, “bring one home for the home team.” Here are 15 reasons you should root for Oiwa:

  1. Oiwa is the first Japanese rider to win at Bramham Horse Trials in any event or level.
  2. He was surprised to win at Bramham. “Maybe in the next three or four days it will sink in more,” he said. “My goal was to be competitive, and be third or fourth, but not to win.”
  3. Oiwa moved to England in 2001 to pursue his goals in eventing, but following the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, relocated to Germany.
  4. Although he is based in Germany, Oiwa speaks no German.
  5. Oiwa began riding when he was in high school, eventually taking up eventing at Meiji University in Tokyo, where every rider was required to try all equestrian disciplines.
  6. Oiwa graduated with a degree in Commerce from Meiji University.
  7. Before competing full-time, Oiwa worked for the Japanese optical lens company, Nittoh.
  8. Outside of eventing, Oiwa enjoys music, catching up with news from Japan, Japanese food and Japanese Anime.
  9. Oiwa’s idol is Japansese showjumper, Takeichi Nishi.
  10. Before every ride, Oiwa sprinkles a dash of salt on his horse and himself.
  11. Oiwa won the “Best Athletic Award” in the equestrian division at the Japanese Sports Awards in 2005, 2007, and 2011.
  12. The Olympics are in Oiwa’s blood—his uncle, Hiroshi Ishii, won a silver medal in swimming for the 4x200m freestyle relay at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome.
  13. Although it’s too early to tell what horse he’ll ride for the 2020 Olympic Games, if he’s selected, Calle 44 is a possibility.
  14. Oiwa describes Calle 44 as super careful in all three disciplines, which resulted in a clear cross country round with just 2.4 time faults, and a clear show jumping round. “Despite my bad riding, he did not touch a fence,” Oiwa said of his show jumping round.
  15. More than his own win, Oiwa was encouraged that fellow Japanese rider Toshiyuki Tanaka finished just behind him in 4th place at Branham. In the lead up to Tokyo, it’s an early, encouraging sign of the depth of Japanese eventing riders. “All the other young Japanese riders can feel that we can be competitive as well,” Oiwa explained. “It’s really difficult to win against these other countries, so I hope I can be an inspiration for other Japanese riders.”

Photography by Erin Gilmore for NF Style