Olympic equestrienne Toni Leviste won the 2-star Grand Prix of Samorin held last July 30, at the X-Bionic Sphere in Slovakia.
Aboard her 17-year old chestnut stallion, Maximillian, Leviste bested 60 of the world’s best riders. For the first time in the history of Philippine Equestrian Sport, the Philippine National Anthem was played on European soil.
When interviewed after two tough rounds, where there were no double clear rounds in a field of 60 competitors, Leviste who won with 1-time fault after the second round of the event, commented that she never expected to win the Grand Prix, the top prize of the 2-star international jumping event.
“I came here to do my final training before flying to Malaysia for the Southeast Asian Games. Of course I always give my best and try to ride a smooth, harmonious round with my horses when we go into the arena, but to win the Grand Prix feels like a dream. And to hear our national anthem play on foreign soil with our flag flying proudly in this giant stadium literally brought me tears of joy.”
“Now I know why I continue to ride with passion, after all these years,” says Leviste. “To ride and win for flag and country is the ultimate motivation.”
Leviste and Maximillian also recently qualified for the World Equestrian Games (WEG), the world championships of equestrian sport, last July 14, during the Nations Cup competition in Falsterbo, Sweden.
The WEG will be held in 2018 in Tyron, North Carolina, USA. It is the second most prestigious equestrian event, next only to the Olympics. Toni is the only Filipino equestrian who has ever competed in this world event, her first participation was in 2002 World Championships in Jerez, Spain, aboard her Sydney Olympic mount, Ghandy.
Leviste will be taking her younger mount Loribi, an eight-year old mare she campaigned with from January to April this year in the United States of America’s jumping league held in Wellington, Palm Beach and Miami.
The duo will see action in the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur from August 20 to 30. This will be the third SEA Games participation for Leviste riding for Team Philippines, together with her show jumping teammates Joker Arroyo, Colin Syquia and Chiara Amor.
Unlike any other sport, where athletes usually peak in their 20’s and finish their career in their 30’s, the longevity of equestrian riders has made Toni Leviste one of the longest serving national athlete for Team Philippines, beginning with her international debut in 1990. Nearly three decades later, she is still representing the Philippine flag in sporting arenas around the world.