The sport of jousting is over 1,000 years old – one of the oldest equestrian sports in the world and England’s first national sport. NowEnglish Heritage are calling on the public to sign the petition which could help jousting to be recognised as an Olympic sport.
Today’s jouster needs the same athleticism, agility, skill and strength as the professional athletes heading to Rio de Janeiro this summer. Wearing up to 20kg of steel armour, the athletes hold a 12ft lance in one hand and their horse’s reins in the other, while thundering towards their opponents at speeds of up to 30mph. Points are awarded depending on where the lance strikes – contrary to popular belief, the purpose of a joust is not to knock your opponent off their horse.
Jousting also shares similar attributes to sports already featured at the Olympic Games. Like existing Olympic equestrian events (which traditionally Team GB have medal hopes in), much hinges on the artistry and poise of both the horse and its rider. And similar to fencing, jousting requires dexterity and weapons expertise.
It’s also a sport which both sexes can participate in equally. Elite female jousters Nicky Willis and Alix van Zijl, two of the leading jousters on the European circuit, are facing their male counterparts on the field this summer.
English Heritage’s jousting expert Dominic Sewell says: “Jousting is a sport that requires a huge amount of skill and involves a daily training regime. You have to be strong, not just physically but mentally, so you can sit fearlessly in your saddle, face your rival and offer yourself as a target. And just like the Olympic British equestrian team, we ride beautiful horses to an exceptional level.”
Jousting tournaments are not only held in England but throughout the world, from Belgium to New Zealand. In the United States, a similar campaign has been launched and jousting is already recognised as a sport by a number of US states, including Maryland where it is the official state sport.