September 28th, 2016

History-making Skelton revels in Olympic gold

History-making Skelton revels in Olympic gold History-making Skelton revels in Olympic gold
Nick Skelton poses proudly with his Olympic gold medals. Photo by Lewis Harding Photography and courtesy of British Showjumping.
Updated: 12:57 pm, Aug 24, 2016

NICK SKELTON has described becoming Team GB’s oldest Olympic medallist since 1912 as ‘amazing’ after winning Britain’s first ever individual showjumping Olympic gold at Rio 2016.

The 58-year-old triumphed in a dramatic six-man jump-off on his horse Big Star after going clear in two straight final rounds to take his second Olympic gold medal at a record seventh Games.

“This has really capped my career,” said Skelton, who lives in Shelfield, Alcester.

“I’ve been in the sport a long time and to win this now at my age is amazing.

“I’ve always wanted to do this (win individual Olympic gold) – I nearly did it in London. I’ve had European medals and world medals, but to win this is pretty emotional for all concerned in my team.

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

Skelton stopped the clock after a clear jump-off round in 42.82 seconds last Friday, which was over half a second faster than Sweden’s Peder Fredricson (silver medal), who was the only other rider to go clear.

Having jumped first, Skelton, who won team gold at London 2012, had to sit and watch as his rivals were unable to beat his round, winning Britain’s first individual Olympic jumping medal for 44 years.

Shooter John Butt is Team GB’s oldest Olympic medallist having won silver at Stockholm 1912 aged 61, while Skelton’s gold completes a haul of three medals for Team GB in equestrian at Rio 2016.

“I was first to go and I thought that I had to go as fast as I could but be safe,” added Skelton.

“I didn’t have to take too many risks because he’s (Big Star) a fast horse anyway. I knew I had to go clear because it then puts a bit of pressure on everybody else.

“I always knew in the back of my mind that I could do it. He is an absolutely amazing horse. You can trust him, he wants to do it and he has all the right attributes. For me he’s the best horse I’ve had and will ever have.

“I’m so pleased (for Big Star) because he’s worked hard. We’ve done a lot of work with him and we’ve slowly been bringing him back. He really came good for me.

“(Waiting in the jump off) has been the biggest nerves of the Games for me. I walked around and I tried to take a sneaky look and see what was happening. I didn’t want to look around too much.

“I knew Eric (Lamaze, bronze medal) would be fast and he gave me a scare for a bit. I’m not going to stop now. I only ride Big Star and I’ve ridden him all year. When he stops, I’ll stop for definite.”

British brilliance

NICK SKELTON’S gold medal last Friday helped Team GB finish second in the medal table at Rio with a total of 67.

Team GB won more podium places than ever before at a Games on foreign soil and became the first nation to win more medals in the Games immediately after hosting, having won 65 four years ago at London 2012.

By finishing second with 27 gold, 23 silver and 17 bronze, Team GB has recorded its best finish in 108 years after topping the list at London 1908.

“It has been an outstanding performance from the whole team over the past 17 days,” said Bill Sweeney, CEO of the British Olympic Association.

“It has been a brilliant Games but this is not an overnight success. Thanks to the contribution of the National Lottery players via UK Sport and their investment, this is 20 years in the making and we’ve now enjoyed five successive Games of medal growth.

“Nobody has come close to that and it’s an unbelievable achievement.”