It was a tremendous day for Showjumping today when Team GB not only won a Team Gold but also the first Gold medal Great Britain has won for sixty years!
The atmosphere at Greenwich was electric for the 2nd and final day of the Team Competition which would decide the medal positions. Great Britain were the fourth team of the eight teams coming forward from yesterday’s competition namely, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, The Netherlands Sweden, Canada, Brazil, USA and Great Britain.
The course, designed by Bob Ellis was both big and technical with it asking many questions of the horse and riders. Related distances that needed lengthening one minute and shortening the next in addition to twisting and turning their way around the 13 fences that required 16 jumping efforts.
Nick Skelton, the first combination for the British Team with the 9 year-old KWPN Stallion Big Star owned by Beverley Widdowson pulled out the first clear round of the competition with the most stunning performance. Lengthening, shortening and not once looking like the fences were going to be a problem for them, the home crowd were left under no illusion as to what a brilliant partnership and combined talent they are.
Talking after his performance Nick commented “He is a freak, there really isn’t anything he can’t do. Long, short, he can do it all – he’s an absolute genius”.
Ben Maher with his own and Quainton Stud’s 10 year-old dark bay stallion Tripple X looked set to reproduce their clear rounds of the last two days but an unfortunate rolling of a pole incurred at fence 10, a vertical later on in the course saw them return home with 4 penalties.
Talking afterwards Ben Maher commented “He felt the best he’s jumped today out of the last two days. He was finding it all quite easy and I was having to hold him back. It was always a long distance to fence 10 and I thought it was going to make it easy but I ended up a bit of a way off. It was unfortunate, but my horse was fantastic and one down isn’t a bad round. We now need a bit of luck”.
Scott Brash with Hello Sanctos, a 12 year-old bay gelding owned by Lady Kirkham and Lord & Lady Harris competing in their first Olympics rode into the arena amid a thunderous cheer and waving of union flags. A combination that have only been competing together since the start of the year their route to the Olympics has been inspirational, even more so when they produced the most stunning clear round which had the spectators up on their feet stamping and cheering.
Talking about his round and his experience of being on an Olympic Team, Scott commented “Sanctos was amazing today. He didn’t fault and he’s just gone better and better; he has just been amazing. Being here has been fantastic, the crowd are unbelievable and I don’t think I’ll ever experience anything like this again. It really has been the best day of my life”.
Peter Charles with Vindicat W, a 12 year-old bay gelding jointly owned by Olga White, Tara Charles & Team Murka were the anchor for the team as they have been each day. Vindicat W, appearing to feel much more comfortable in the arena produced a foot perfect round until the penultimate fence, a gate which lowered accruing 4 penalties. Coming through the time just slightly over the time allowed meant a time penalty also being accrued meaning a finish of 5 penalties.
Following their rounds it was then a lot of nail biting that followed waiting for the last rider for The Netherlands, Gerco Schroder and his horse London, to come forward as they were the only team that could be in the hunt for a Gold Medal with us. With Gerco having a fence down, we were reliant on them having another fence or a time penalty if we weren’t to be forced into a Jump Off situation. With Gerco keeping focused and jumping clear thereafter and within the time it meant that all team riders for both nations would be asked to jump again.
The Jump Off (over a shortened course) would see all four riders come forward with the three best rounds to count. First to go was Nick for Great Britain and yet again, they produced another unbelievably stunning clear – all the more notable when you consider he has jumped clear across all days of competition so far.
Next for GB was Ben Maher who entered the arena with the pressure of knowing that the Dutch rider just before him had gone clear and that a clear in a good time would be needed. He most certainly didn’t disappoint as he produced a foot-perfect clear in a fast time, adding substantial pressure on the Dutch team.
With Maikel van de Vleuten who followed having 8 faults for The Netherlands, Scott entered the arena with tension mounting. An unlucky touch at fence 2, a vertical, saw them incur 4 penalties. The third Dutch rider, returned back with 4 penalties meaning that if Peter went clear the Gold medal would be ours.
As Peter Charles entered the arena, the packed Grandstands knew the importance of this round and you could have heard a pin drop as the starting bell went.
With Vindicat W having got better and better each day growing in confidence infront of the enormous crowds, which had initially unsettled him, they pulled out all the stops and with everyone on the edge of the seats riding each fence with him, he jumped clear with the crowd erupting in their euphoria knowing that Great Britain had won the first Jumping Gold medal for sixty years.
RESULTS: Gold – Great Britain, Silver – Netherlands, Bronze – Saudi Arabia