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Human to Hero: Olympics a family affair for champion Klimke

updated 6:38 AM EDT, Tue March 13, 2012
Equestrian rider Ingrid Klimke won the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics as part of the German three-day eventing team. Equestrian rider Ingrid Klimke won the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics as part of the German three-day eventing team.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Germany's Ingrid Klimke to compete in her fourth Olympics in London this year
  • The 43-year-old won gold for Germany as part of three-day eventing team at 2008 Games
  • Inspired by father who won six gold medals at five separate Olympics from 1964 to 1988
  • Klimke has won a host of international and domestic titles in a career spanning 20 years

(CNN) -- Equestrian champion Ingrid Klimke could ride a horse before she could walk, such is the fondness her family holds for the animals.

The German's father, Reiner, won an incredible six Olympic gold medals spread across five separate installments of the Games between 1964 and 1988 before his death in 1999.

His dream was for one of his children to follow in his footsteps and participate at the Games, which Ingrid duly did in Sydney in 2000.

And eight years later Ingrid became the second Klimke to clinch a gold medal when she was part of the German three-day eventing team that triumphed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Klimke has now competed in three Olympics and has also claimed a host of domestic and international titles over a 21-year career in the sport.

Human to Hero: Ingrid Klimke

CNN's Human to Hero show caught up with the 43-year-old and her horse FRH Butts Abraxxas, nicknamed "Braxx," at her home in Munster, Germany as she prepares to saddle up for her fourth Olympics in London.

Starting out

"My mother says that I could ride, or sit on a horse before I could walk. I just grew up with horses," Klimke told CNN.

The 43-year-old did a Masters in Equestrian Management after university and trained in dressage, stadium jumping and three-day eventing.

Ingrid Klimke: Fast Facts
Event: Equestrian

Hometown: Munster, Germany

Age: 43

Honours: Olympic team three-day event champion 2008

Olympic appearances: 2000, 2004, 2008

Daily routine: I try to be on my first horse at 8am then ride until 2pm

How do you relax? Skiing, musicals, museums

Favorite food: Salads, pastas, but also cookies or chocolate with the kids

Klimke began competing in the late 1980s and opened her own stables in 1998.

Heroes

It is no surprise Klimke's father has been the most influential person in her career. Learning from a five-time Olympian has helped shape her own successful path in the sport.

"My father was a wonderful dressage rider, but he also started with eventing. In 1960 he took part at the Olympics in Rome as an eventer, but then afterward he started doing dressage," she said.

"He counted in Olympic years because for him the Olympics was just his thing. His dream was that one of his children would go to the Olympics.

"Later I could work out whether I preferred more dressage or more eventing -- that's why I still do both."

Setbacks

Injuries are part and parcel of any rider's career, and Klimke has had her fair share of bumps and bruises.

"I think if you have a life with horses you have injuries, and I've had some falls," she said.

"Last year I fell at Badminton (England's prestigious horse trials) and I damaged my knee -- so that put me out for three months right in the middle of the season. You always have to take your time to come back."

Olympic memories

Klimke's appearance in London will be her fourth Olympics, having competed in Sydney, Athens and Beijing, but her gold at the Games in China was her first.

"Sydney was my first four-star event and it was a very tough, long course, 13 minutes up and down. It was hot!" she said.

"The Olympics is the thing I grew up with and that's why I keep going with my next generation of horses, hoping one of them will be able to follow in Braxx's footsteps.

"You must always have dreams and goals never rest, never think you have had it all -- then it is better to quit -- but I would love to keep going."

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