Dressage rider, born August 13th, 1978 in Hyogo Prefecture.
Began dressage riding at the age of 20 and almost immediately began to appear in national championships. Placed 5th in the Japan Dressage Championships St.
George’s Cup Dressage Final in 2012, and moved to Europe as a result. Began training under three-time Olympic champion Anky van Grunsven, and after gaining experience in international competitions, began to work towards being selected to represent Japan.
In the Rio de Janeiro group rounds held in 2015, she was selected as a member of the Japanese national team for the first time, contributing to the team’s 2nd place finish which gained them the right to enter the team competition.
Since 2016 she has been partnered by her skilled horse Toots and trained by Dutch rider Imke Schellekens-Bartels,Tieke Bartels, under whose tutelage she participated in the Rio Olympics.
She divides her time between Denmark and Japan, where she also has a time-consuming job running a facility for the elderly, and is training now with the aim of appearing at the Tokyo Olympics.
Akane Kuroki has always loved animals, since she was a small child. She was introduced to horse riding by her older sister, who took her to a riding club at around the age of 20. Even for a dressage rider, whose career can be long, this was a late start.
Despite this, she says she can still remember the emotion of riding a horse for the first time. “The horse was really warm and its stomach expanded every time it took a breath. I could feel it moving through the saddle below me. I was filled with indescribable emotion the moment I sat on the horse’s back.”
Immediately enchanted by horses, Akane began to frequent the stables and, being of determined character, she continued to set new targets for herself: “I want to ride faster!”; “I want to be able to jump over obstacles!”; “I want to take part in competitions!” “I performed consistently well in dressage and the enjoyment of succeeding in competition meant that I wanted to do it more and more.”
Akane came to a crossroads in 2012 at the Japan National Championships. The competition is divided by level, according to the abilities and technical skills of the horses and riders, with entrants competing to be champion in their own class. Akane entered the St. George class, which is considered to represent the standard required for entry to international competition. She reached the final, where she placed 5th.
“This was the first time I had been highly marked by non-Japanese judges, even though I’d gone in front of them multiple times. I was so happy – it made me feel as though a new path had opened up for me.” In equestrian sports, experience and achievement count significantly, and Akane had only been riding for 10 years, making her a relative newcomer. She felt, however, that perhaps she could still make her mark.
Realizing that she wanted to learn somewhere with more of a horseriding culture in order to test her own skills, she moved to Europe in 2013 to pursue her dream.
This, of course, was easier said than done. Akane was running a business, so it was not easy for her to leave Japan.
“I can only ride in training for a certain amount of time each day.
At other times, I watch other riders I admire on the internet, so that I can get new ideas about how to ride, do my own physical training, and work on training myself mentally.
I’m not comparing myself with anyone, I’m concentrating on what I can do, so that when I am with the horse we can train effectively together.”
“I have had a lot of good luck. And I would really like to appear in another Olympics, this time in Tokyo.”
It has been three years since she moved to Europe.
In that short time, Akane has risen to be a member of the Japanese national team and is gradually realizing her various dreams. In 2016, she was part of the Japanese team at the Rio Olympics.
“I think I was very lucky. I have been lucky in terms of my horses and the people around me, but also in having opportunities to win.” Her ability to attract good luck towards herself, in both competition and business, is also surely a strength.
Akane’s next challenge will be to once again take part in the Tokyo Olympics.