Shear Gold by Leslie Law

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The Independent Culture

Leslie Law does not regard his autobiography as a rags to riches story. "We weren't very poor to start with and I'm certainly not rich now!" he says in this enjoyable page-turner, which was written with Gillian Newsum.

All the same his childhood, which began in a terraced council house in rural Herefordshire, does not seem a likely launching pad for a distinguished career in eventing, generally regarded as the poshest of the equestrian disciplines.

Law was about 10 years old when two ponies were bought for him and his younger brother, Graham, at Abergavenny Market. "I think my father must have worked all hours to get enough money," Leslie says. Much as he enjoyed riding as a boy, he never dreamt that he would become the Olympic champion.

The book's title reflects the names of the two grey horses that eventually gave Law his Olympic places: Shear H20, with whom he won a team silver medal in Sydney, and his full brother, Shear l'Eau, who was his mount when winning individual gold and a second team silver in Athens.

There is no photograph of him standing on the Olympic podium, since Bettina Hoy, of Germany, received the individual gold medal in a bizarre series of events that had seen her credited with a clear round in the showjumping, then penalised for crossing the start line twice, before having the penalties deleted on appeal and then reimposed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport after the Games were over.

There are no complaints about the Athens fiasco - "I was just gobsmacked to have got the silver," we are told by the unpretentious Law, who had come to be regarded as a reliable team man rather than an individual star. The gold medal was eventually presented to him by the Princess Royal at Buckingham Palace to loud applause from the assembled Olympic athletes. "I may not have stood on the winner's podium in Athens, but I still had my moment of glory after all," Law says.

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