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By Ella Mitchell, Contributing News Editor • June 14, 2024

Law school alum vies for spot in Paris Olympics

GW Law alumn Ema Klugman rides her horse as it jumps a hurdle during competition.
Courtesy of Ema Klugman
GW Law alumn Ema Klugman rides her horse as it jumps a hurdle during competition.

GW Law alum Ema Klugman seeks to represent Australia at the 2024 Paris Olympics in three-day eventing, an equestrian competition.

Klugman, who graduated from GW Law School with a juris doctorate Sunday, sits on a list of eligible competitors who are all contending for the three spots on Team Australia’s three-day eventing team. If the selection panel which is required to select the team by July 1 chooses Klugman to represent Australia, she will join the legacy of at least 10 other GW alumni who have competed for their respective countries in the Olympics.

Alum Elana Meyers Taylor medaled in bobsledding in the 2010, 2014 and 2018 Olympics while representing the United States. Men’s basketball alum Yuta Watanabe represented Japan during the last summer Olympics in 2021 on his home soil, during the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Klugman said she has been a member of the High Performance Squad, an Australian national equestrian group, for several years and her successful performances on the international stage have led to her inclusion on the list of potential Olympians for Team Australia.

“My sport is a bit different in the sense that I’m an athlete, but also, there’s another very big part of the equation, which is that the horse is the other athlete that we so heavily rely upon, and a huge amount of time and effort and energy goes into taking care of the horses,” Klugman said.

The National Federation and the Australian Olympic Committee selects Olympians for three-day eventing from a Long List of prospective athletes, and nominees to Team Australia must pass criteria like having Australian citizenship, satisfying the Qualification System to compete in the games.

Throughout her career, Klugman has achieved three A-level ratings, the highest national ratings, in dressage, traditional and showjumping between 2015 and 2019 and is one of two people in the United States to achieve the distinctions. Klugman also earned the Top Young Rider award at the Kentucky 5* in June 2021. While riding her horse named Bronte Beach, Klugman earned a five-star status when competing earlier this month.

Klugman, who was born to Australian parents, grew up in Nairobi, Kenya, where she learned to ride horses and gained an appreciation for the sport. She said she also lived in and competed in equestrian events in Australia, eventually gaining support from the Australian Federation where she maintained a high performance track through the Australian team.

 Klugman said in a message that she began competing in the U.S. at the age of 10. 

“I could hypothetically switch to America if I wanted to, at some point. But I feel fairly loyal to Australia,” Klugman said. 

Klugman said she trains six days a week, driving an hour to Clarksburg, Maryland, from Foggy Bottom to her family’s Snowy River Farm to train and ride her horses. She said the farm’s proximity to GW was a factor in her decision to attend GW Law.

Klugman said she spends approximately 50 hours a week grooming, feeding and training her horses. Alongside Bronte Beach, Klugman said she also competes on two other horses names RF Redfern and Slieve Callan Alpha.

During her time at GW Law, she said she structured her some of her course schedule around her competition schedule. She said she multitasked during her commute to the farm by listening to lectures and preparing for exams, to capitalize on her long drive.

Klugman added that she passed the Virginia bar exam in February, prior to the start of her competition season. 

“So it’s a lot of scheduling and kind of planning around,” Klugman said. “I’m going to really have to focus on school in these particular times, and so I’m not going to be able to do a competition that maybe I would have done otherwise.”

Klugman said she is grateful for the support she has received from professors in both outside and inside the classroom. She said some of her professors like her criminal procedure professor have been “super excited” about her athletic endeavors.

“It’s fun when they recognize that I’m trying to do something else that’s a major commitment as well,” Klugman said. “And they don’t see that as a detriment. They see that as something that adds to who I am as a person and a student.”

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