Great Britain’s showjumpers could end a difficult week on a high after Nick Skelton and Ben Maher qualified for Friday’s Olympic individual final in Rio.
Twenty-four hours after Skelton, Maher, Michael Whitaker and John Whitaker crashed out of the team competition in round one, Skelton and Maher returned with Big Star and Tic Tac, respectively, to secure places in the final.
Skelton had five faults, while Maher picked up just one time penalty. A total of 35 combinations will contest Friday morning’s penultimate individual round, before the top 20 battle it out for medals later in the day.
Maher said: “We’ve had a rough week this week. We really believed that we could come here and put in a good performance for the team, and things just didn’t go our way yesterday. It just wasn’t meant to be.
“Myself and Nick are trying to redeem ourselves, to keep us in it for Friday. Psychologically, it has been tough. You wouldn’t have wanted to be in our apartment last night with the five of us.
“We each had an early night. I studied a few videos from yesterday and rode one or two fences slightly differently today. We had to come out and keep pushing, and the deal today was that we made the cut. We both got the job done, and we start on zero (penalties) on Friday.
“I feel my horse is jumping better as each day goes on. So if he keeps progressing from this, with a day off tomorrow, then I will be quietly confident on Friday. Hopefully, we will start on Friday from where we left off today.”
And Skelton, who is competing at his seventh Olympics, said of Big Star: “He jumped great. He just again got a bit unlucky. There is not a lot you can do when you have the middle fence of a combination down. He left the floor well, but just touched it.
“We all start on equal scores on Friday, which is different. The horse is jumping really well. He’s not doing a lot wrong.”
France were crowned Olympic team champions for the first time in 40 years, as Philippe Rozier, Kevin Staut, Roger-Yves Bost and Penelope Leprevost pipped the United States to the post. Germany beat Canada in a jump-off for bronze.
Attention now turns to the individual final on Friday, and on the stellar cast that includes Eric Lamaze, Kent Farrington, McLain Ward, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, Edwina Tops-Alexander and reigning Olympic individual champion Steve Guerdat.