For more than 20 years, Merkulova has been a prominent Grand Prix rider for Russia, representing the country at five World Equestrian Games, three European Dressage Championships and five Dressage World Cup finals.
Most recently, she rode at the Rio Games in 2016 aboard Mister X, her Russian Trakehner gelding, where they finished 23rd in the individual competition. She was a fan favourite at Rio, sharing her quirky pre-competition preparation, which included reading Mister X Fifty Shades of Grey to get him ready to compete. She and Mister X were named best sports pair at the 2018 Equestrian Federation of Russia Awards.
Last summer, Russia qualified a dressage team to compete at Tokyo 2020. It’s the first time the nation has qualified a team since the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Due to Russia’s World Anti-Doping Agency ban, the team must compete under a neutral flag. They are the only Russian team of the three equestrian disciplines to qualify for Tokyo 2020.
Merkulova’s family has asked for privacy during this difficult time.
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