WARWICKSHIRE’s Nick Skelton has described becoming Team GB’s oldest Olympic medallist since 1912 as ‘amazing’ after winning Britain’s first ever individual showjumping 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 career gold medal at a record seventh Olympic Games.
“This has really capped my career,” said Skelton, who lives in Alcester and went to Coventry’s Bablake School. “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 – 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, 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 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” Skelton added. “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 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.”