London 2012 Olympics: Skelton lets gold slip through his fingers
British star Nick Skelton’s dream of Olympic individual showjumping glory ended in heartache for the second time yesterday.
Eight years after he agonisingly dropped out of the gold medal position in Athens, Skelton’s hopes were sunk in Greenwich Park at a fence called Cutty Sark.
It was the first error over six rounds of team and individual jumping at London 2012 for 54-year-old Skelton and his brilliant stallion Big Star.
But it was magnified by its painful significance as Skelton slipped from a potential gold medal jump-off with the now newly-crowned Olympic champion Steve Guerdat, to finish equal fifth alongside his British colleague, Scott Brash from Peebles.
In an Olympic Games which has already seen a number of historic milestones surpassed, Guerdat, 30, and Nino des Buissonnets ended an 88-year wait for a Swiss showjumping gold medallist.
“I knew that I had a freak of a horse under me, and if I rode well then everything was going to be easier,” Guerdat said.
Gerco Schroder from the Netherlands riding the aptly-named London took silver after a jump-off against Cian O’Connor and Blue Loyd 12, who landed Ireland’s first medal of the Games.
O’Connor, who won Olympic gold in the Greek capital in 2004 but was then stripped of the medal when his ride Waterford Crystal failed a drugs test, only gained a call-up for the final yesterday morning after Swede Rolf-Goran Bengtsson’s mount Casall did not pass the final horse inspection.
Skelton had been last to go in Athens and it was the same for him yesterday. On that occasion, two fences down saw him plummet 11 places with Arko, although at least this time around Skelton had already collected the considerable prize of a team gold medal.
But two days after the British team were memorably crowned Olympic champions, the golden double most of a capacity 23,000 crowd craved was not to be.
Ben Maher, having had a fence down in each of yesterday’s two rounds, ended up ninth, and Ann Moore remains the last British showjumper to win an individual medal in Munich 40 years ago. “It has happened before, and it has happened again,” a rueful Skelton said. “That is our game, you know. You touch one pole, and you can’t get it back. What can you do about it? You cannot go back in there and change it.
“At least we’ve come away with a gold medal, which is brilliant. It is great for the sport, great for me.”
Asked if he was thinking about Athens, Skelton replied: “No. No, no. Not at all. I know I was sitting on the best horse and he was unlucky.
“It has been an amazing experience, and great to win in London, it’s just a pity it all went wrong.
“Everyone thought it was going well – I did too – but I just touched the pole at the wrong time and that was it. I feel sorry for the people that came.”
If Skelton required an immediate pick-me-up, then it came via a glowing tribute from his team gold medal-winning colleague Maher.
“Without Nick on our team we wouldn’t have won this week,” Maher said.
“He has been in this sport for what seems like forever, and he has been fighting for the team all week.”
Both Maher and Brash were left to face personal disappointment today, although at 29 and 26, respectively, their time will come again.
Brash, from Peebles, gave it everything in the push for medals, but four faults in the final round nudged him out of contention.
He said: “I am gutted, absolutely gutted. The horse has jumped amazingly all week, but that is showjumping for you – the tiniest of touches. At this level, fractions mean everything.
“This whole Olympic experience has been amazing, and I am just disappointed for letting the crowd down. Once we go away from here, we will never get a feeling like this again.”
Maher did not look for excuses after knocking down one fence in each round yesterday with Tripple X III.
“I think the first-round fence pushed me out of the medals by the looks of things,” he said. “It’s disappointing, but it would probably be even worse if I had gone clear in the first round.
“But it has all been amazing. We won the team competition, which was the ultimate aim before we came, and the individual would have been a bonus, obviously.
“I felt I had a good chance. I am disappointed right now, but I am sure in a couple days I will get over that.”
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Saturday 18 May 2013
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