Olympic Interview with Lauren Billys
What did the overall experience of going to Rio mean to you?
The experience of Rio means a lot! I’ve been wanting to go to the Olympics since I was 12 years old and about five years ago I sat down with my support team to put a plan together to finally fulfill this dream. To always have that dream in your heart and to then finally be able to get there was the most magical and inspiring moment of my life.
The Rio Olympics felt different compared to any other competition that I’ve been to as a competitor or a spectator. To be honest, I can’t quite put my finger on what it was about it, but the environment in the ring was more than just a horse show. To be a part of the whole weekend was very inspiring and gave me a lot to look forward to in the future because of the experiences I got when I was there.
What part of the Rio experience met your expectations? What part surprised you?
I expected an all-around amazing competition, and it proved to be every bit of that. From the first day of dressage to the last day of show jumping, it’s one of those competitions that you will never forget. To be able to be a part of that and be one of the competitors was everything that I had hoped for.
For me the best surprise of the trip was that the organization and living facilities far exceeded all of our expectations. I’ve been lucky to attend several Olympics and this was by far one of the best venues that I’ve ever been to. Their organization really minimized the amount of stress that I thought I would have going into the competition.
What was your favorite part of your Rio experience?
To be honest the most exciting part was the final salute in my dressage test. When I trotted down into the dressage arena I was overcome with happiness at finally realizing my dream. I knew my horse was in top form, and that feeling of excitement and positive energy carried over through the entire trip. When I did my final salute in my dressage test, it was a bit emotional because it just represented all of the hard work that my horse and I had put in to get there. It really hit me that I was just so incredibly lucky to be there and be there with a horse like Purdy.
Another fun part of the Rio trip was being able to stay in the Athletes Village and realizing that Olympians come in many different shapes and sizes. I would look around and see people of all ages, heights and sizes, and it helped me realize that you’re not limited by your athletic build or by your experiences. When you’re there you realize that the Olympics are really possible for anyone that wants to work hard.
Is there anyone you would like to thank for helping you get to the Olympics?
Without the incredible people in the Purdy Syndicate, I would never have been able to go and follow my Olympic dreams. And my great group of sponsors have been so generous, and without them I would not be able to compete at this level of the sport. And finally, my coaches Bea and Derek DiGrazia have been so supportive and inspiring throughout this journey, I truly cannot thank them enough!
What advice would you give to a young rider in the sport looking to be an Olympian one day?
Sacrifice. It became a ground of commonality between me and the other competitors I met while in Rio. We’re all missing out on something in an effort to pursue our dreams and what we love. So I would tell any young rider dreaming of the Olympics to know that your dreams are possible, but you have to be willing to make the hard decisions and go for it in every aspect of your life.
What are your plans for the future?
I plan on focusing a bit on a cool up-and-coming horse I have named Marseille. I have been so focused on Purdy and the Olympics, that I now have the time to develop my young horses and my business in California.
Looking to next year, I would love to compete at Rolex for the first time in the spring. And looking further into the future, I would love to qualify for and ride in the 2018 World Equestrian Games. And of course I want to go to the Olympics again and again and again! Most of the riders I met at Rio who medaled had been to the Olympics before. I want to be able to live that legacy too and see what type of rider I can become over the next few years.