Team work at it’s best! The dedicated team behind Nick Skelton and Big Star must be thrilled with this dazzling result and they all deserve a huge back on the back.
In a thrilling finale to the equestrian sporting action at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Great Britain’s Nick Skelton was crowned the Individual Jumping Olympic Champion with Mrs Beverley Widdowson’s Big Star, and with it becomes the first British athlete to win an equestrian jumping individual gold medal for Team GB.
Not having won a class since the Aachen the Grand Prix back in 2013 the amazing 13 year old Quick Star stallion truly rose to the occasion and soon returned to full fighting form and impressed all over the course of competion at Rio.
The hugely popular stallion producing a double clear in the first two rounds on the final day of the individual jumping event, Nick was one of six going forward to contest a jump-off to determine the medals. First of the six riders to jump may have been a blessing in disguise for Nick providing him with the ideal opportunity to set the pace and put the other contenders under pressure. He expertly guided Big Star around the technical 1.60m track to record his third clear round of the day in a fast time of 42.82 seconds.
In a nail-biting end to the jump-off, the British fans were on the edges of their seats as the final five riders completed their final rounds. Stopping the clock less than a second behind Nick, Sweden’s Peder Fredricson took the Silver with Eric Lamaze of Canada taking the Bronze.
“I have been in the sport a long, long time and to win this now at my age, I’m so happy, it’s just amazing!” said Nick, “I was emotional (on the podium) because I am so happy and it’s been a long time, to do this now is like unbelievable for me. I’ve always wanted to do this and I nearly did it in London in the Individual. I’ve had European medals and World medals but to win this and be lucky enough to get this horse here is pretty emotional for all concerned in my team.”
To claim Olympic Gold is a truly amazing story for Equestrian sport worldwide. It’s a ‘double whammy’ so to speak – you have the human interest story with Nick; 58 years of age broken neck, hip replacement etc the list goes on. I’m sure Nick will be thrilled for being remembered as the second OLDEST athlete to win Gold!
And there is also the story of Big Star himself and everyone loves an animal ‘hero’ – Big Star is an immense personality and has battled through injury to top sporting in action – to win an Olympic Gold in a matter of months is a incredible achievement. Most people in the industry I’m sure would have written Big Star off, but the team behind him; Nick, Beverley & Gary Widdowson, Mark Beever, the vets, have shown such dedication, patience, resilience and true professionalism that all credit must go to them.
Congratulations you all deserve that Gold Medal!
photo credit Jon Stroud