Nick Skelton triumphs in Rio

By Charles Taylor on |

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Skelton Nick, GBR Olympic Games Rio 2016 Photo © Hippo Foto - Dirk Caremans 19/08/16
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Nick Skelton achieved his career-crowning glory by winning the Olympic individual showjumping title in Rio on Friday.

The 58-year-old from Alcester in Warwickshire became the oldest Olympic gold medallist in equestrian history and the second oldest in British sport since 1908.

He also gave Britain a first Olympic individual showjumping medal of any colour since 1972, after a six horse jump-off that saw Skelton and Big Star triumph by more than half a second from Sweden’s Peder Fredricson, who won silver, and bronze medallist Eric Lamaze.

Skelton, who had jumped two clear rounds earlier in the day to be among six combinations that raced against the clock, posted a time of 42.82 seconds, and no-one else could touch him, including London 2012 individual champion Steve Guerdat and highly-fancied American Kent Farrington.

Skelton, competing in his seventh Olympics, said: “I am not going to stop now. I only ride Big Star at the moment. When he stops, I will stop. For definite.

“I have been in the sport a long time. I am so happy – it was amazing.

“I was just emotional on the podium because I am so happy with what I’ve done. To do it now is unbelievable. It is pretty emotional for all concerned.”

Hailing Big Star, Skelton added: “The last competition he won was the Aachen Grand Prix in 2013 — it has been two years to get him back.

“It has taken a lot of work, but I always knew if we could get him right, then he could do this.

“He is an absolutely amazing horse. He has all the right attributes and he is the best horse I am ever likely to have.

“We have been very slowly bringing him back. I have nursed him and nursed him, and he has come good for me — this is for him.

“I’ve always wanted to do this — I nearly did it in London. I’ve had European medals and world medals, but to win this is emotional.

“My groom has been with me for 31 years, but if you saw how many hours he spends with my horse, you would be amazed. He only looks after that one horse, and he’s with him nine hours a day constantly.”

Skelton’s success means that Great Britain’s equestrian team finished their Rio campaign with two gold medals – Skelton and dressage star Charlotte Dujardin – plus a silver for the dressage team.

Skelton added: “That (jump-off) has been the biggest nerves of the Games for me. I didn’t want to look too much, but I had to look at Eric, because I knew he would be quick.

“I was first to go in the jump-off, and I thought in my mind to go as fast as I could, but be safe.

“He’s a quick horse anyway, and I had to be clear, because it adds a bit of pressure on everyone else. I needed luck on my side, and it was today.”

Britain’s Ben Maher, meanwhile, finished 25th with Tic Tac.

Nick Skelton win Britain’s first-ever individual gold in showjumping at the Rio Olympics by Hippo Foto – Dirk Caremans, courtesy of the FEI

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