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Comeback king Skelton scoops Britain’s first Olympic individual Jumping gold. He broke his neck in a fall 16 years ago, he has a replacement hip, he’s 58 years old, competing at his seventh Olympic Games and he was riding a horse that has been struggling with injury for over two years, but Nick Skelton made Olympic history when becoming the first ever British rider to win individual Jumping gold at Deodoro Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro today.
In a thrilling finale to an extraordinary two weeks of equestrian sport, the man who helped claim his country’s first Olympic team Jumping medals – and golden ones at that – for 60 years in London (GBR) four years ago, simply galloped the rest into the ground when pace-setter in a third-round jump-off against the clock with Big Star.
"It’s pretty emotional for all my team, my groom Mark has been in my team for 30 years, he works with this horse nine hours a day. My two boys (his sons) are at home, they’re both very busy but I spoke with them on the phone and they’re really happy. I have to thank Laura (his partner, American rider Laura Kraut) too, she’s been a great help.” Nick Skelton
Sweden’s Peder Fredricson and the brilliant All In claimed silver when producing the only other fault-free performance in the closing stages, while Canada’s Eric Lamaze took the bronze when posting the fastest time but leaving a fence on the floor with Fine Lady.
Lamaze put it into perspective. “The Olympics is the most difficult challenge in our sport, we try our hardest to do our best. Anybody in that jump-off deserved a medal. Most of us go to shows every week and you can win a big Grand Prix, but an Olympic medal - well that stays with you forever!”
Text by Louise Parkes
Photography by Richard Julliart/FEI