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Host Team Takes Olympic Jumping Gold


by Louise Parkes

There were ecstatic scenes in Greenwich Park when Great Britain ended a 60-year drought to claim Jumping team gold for only the second time in the history of the Olympic Games. They had to battle all the way, and it came down to a two-way jump-off against The Netherlands. But Nick Skelton, Peter Charles, Ben Maher and Scott Brash triumphed in the finest style on home soil. Saudi Arabia took bronze behind the Dutch, with Switzerland finishing fourth.

For Skelton and Charles, success at this level has been a long time coming. "It’s taken me 54 years,” Skelton said. “It’s unbelievable and what a place to do it! I have a wonderful horse and it’s a dream come true. It’s great for our country and great for our sport. The lads have done great” he added, turning to his team-mates, “and I'm really pleased for Pete (Charles). He has had a rough trip, but he did well in the end."

For Brash and Maher, Olympic glory has come early in their careers, and both recognized that they were fortunate to contribute to it. “I’m delighted for the older guys. All these years they’ve worked hard, riding loads of different horses, and it’s great to play a part in helping them to achieve this - everyone played their part,” said 26-year-old Brash who is the youngest team member.

Brash broke into the British team for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Kentucky (USA) just two years ago, but only really clinched his place in the Olympic side with performances over the last eight months riding Hello Sanctos. He hails from Peebles in Scotland and, in an interesting coincidence, there was also a Scotsman on the only other British team to claim Olympic gold back in 1952. That was Douglas Stewart who rode Aherlow alongside Wilfred White (Nizefela) and Harry Llewellyn (Foxhunter).

Just eight nations battled it out in the second round of the team competition. Brazil and the USA were carrying eight faults each following the first round, Canada was carrying five and Great Britain, The Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland were sharing silver medal position with four faults apiece, while Saudi Arabia held the lead with just one time fault on the board.

But course designer Bob Ellis quickly separated them with a big, demanding 13-fence track. The opening oxer and following vertical led to a tricky three-fence line that began with the London 2012 vertical at three, followed by the White Cliffs open water at four, and the Cutty Sark vertical at fence five. The stride distance between the first two proved difficult to get, and there were plenty of wet feet. The most spectacular water-crossing was made by Avenzio, ridden by Japan’s Taizo Sugitani, who rose like a helicopter and danced around in the air before descending on the landing side.

The triple combination at fence seven was the next trouble-spot as the middle and final elements fell consistently, while the wide Nelson’s Column oxer at eight also claimed a number of victims, as did the Greenwich Meantime double at nine, and the related-distance vertical at 10. There was no let-up on the way home with another massive oxer at 11, with the penultimate maximum-height gate and big final oxer all taking their toll.

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