Skelton finally medals as British equestrian jumpers celebrate first Olympic gold for 60 years
Monday, 06 August 2012
August 6 - Britain's equestrian team jumpers have won their first Olympic gold medal since the Helsinki 1952 Games after claiming victory in a thrilling jump-off against the Netherlands at Greenwich Park.
Following the end of normal competition, the British quartet of Nick Skelton, Ben Maher, Scott Brash and Peter Charles were tied with the Netherlands, sending the event into a dramatic sudden-death ride against the clock over a shortened course.
But while Dutch riders Mikael van der Vleuten and Marc Houtzager faltered, the Britons held their nerve to claim victory in front of a 23,000-capacity crowd with the Netherlands taking silver and overnight leaders Saudi Arabia the bronze.
As well as being Britain's first Olympic jumping gold for 60 years, it was also the country's first medal in the event since Los Angeles 1984.
Britain's victory at Helsinki is best remembered for Sir Harry Llewellyn and Foxhunter, who clinched the gold medal with a final clear round.
In years to come this victory could become associated with Skelton, who at the age of 54, was competing in his sixth Olympic Games and picked up his first medal.
The closest Skelton had previously come to an Olympic medal was when he was a member of the British team that clinched silvers in the "Alternative Olympics" in 1980, an event held after several countries boycotted the Games in Moscow because of the Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan.
He failed to make the British team that won silver medals at Los Angeles in 1984 before making his debut at Seoul four years later.
Skelton has competed in every Olympics since, with the exception of Sydney in 2000.
"It has taken me 54 years!" exclaimed Skelton, who was riding Big Star (pictured top).
"It is unbelievable and what a place to do it.
"I have got a wonderful horse and it's a dream come true.
"It is great for our country and great for our sport."
On the other end of the spectrum, 26-year-old Brash was making his Olympic debut.
"He was amazing today," said the Scot, who was on board Hello Sanctos.
"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."
After day one of the competition Saudi Arabia was the surprise leader while Britain was tied with the Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden in second spot.
But the end of the second round saw the hosts draw level with the Dutch before clinching the honours in a nail-biting finale.