In 2021, when the Olympic Games were held in Tokyo, it was the first time in 17 years that a Danish showjumper participated. Andreas Schou proudly represented his homeland on the international stage. While Schou’s individual achievements secured his place in this historic competition, what might be unknown to many is that another rider’s accomplishments were responsible for Denmark’s participation in Tokyo. Emil Hallundbæk, Schou’s teammate on the national team, had secured the first-place position in Group A on the Olympic rankings by the end of 2019, thus ensuring a Danish showjumper’s ticket to Tokyo. Nevertheless, it wasn’t Hallundbæk who embarked on the journey to the Japanese capital. However, at the age of just 25, the talented showjumper still has ample time to achieve this milestone.
Early life and career
Emil Hallundbæk’s connection to the equestrian world dates back long before his birth. His parents, Jørgen and Marianne Hallundbæk, met at a riding competition, and their shared passion for riding and horses has persisted ever since. Emil’s younger sister, Clara, is also a talented young showjumper. Despite the family’s enthusiasm for horses, young Hallundbæk’s initial interest was in another sport. Like many boys, he dreamt of becoming a professional soccer player. He has attributed particular significance to two events that influenced his decision to pursue a career in showjumping: witnessing Dutch-Belgian showjumper Jos Lansink become a world champion in 2006, and becoming the Danish champion in his age group at the age of 11.
With full focus on a future as a professional in the equestrian world, greater results began to emerge. At the age of 18, Hallundbæk moved to Belgium to advance his career. He chose Belgium as his new home due to its central location for competitions and its emphasis on showjumping as a sport. Over the next three years, Hallundbæk transitioned from being a promising young Danish talent to being internationally recognized as an upcoming star.
Breakthrough Year in 2019
The year 2019 was pivotal for Hallundbæk’s career. It began with a Grand Prix victory in Wellington, Florida, and his strong performances continued throughout the year. As previously mentioned in the article, Hallundbæk’s achievements in 2019 were so impressive that Denmark secured participation in showjumping at the Olympics for the first time in 16 years. At the age of 21, he ranked among the top 25 U25 showjumpers globally and was the highest-ranked Northern European rider. However, circumstances did not unfold as hoped. The Olympics were postponed by a year, and by that time, Andreas Schou had established himself as the most suitable candidate to represent Denmark in Tokyo.
Hope following the Olympics
The period after the Olympic qualification was not as successful for Hallundbæk as hoped, but it still brought along some highlights. He participated in the World Championships in Herning, representing Denmark. Although the Danish team did not reach the decisive round, Hallundbæk showcased his skills riding Chalisco, a horse he had been riding since taking over from Andreas Schou in 2016. Chalisco, now 16 years old, continues to compete at the highest level alongside Hallundbæk.
Emil Hallundbæk’s journey continues, and despite still awaiting his breakthrough on the senior level, he has already played a significant role in promoting Danish showjumping. Given his young age, there is every reason to believe that his peak is yet to come, and that even greater accomplishments await in the future.