Olympics 1992 Tuesday 4 August: The Great Grey rises: John Whitaker - Show jumping: Team event 7.0am and 2.0pm

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The Independent Online
Ronnie Massarella, team manager to the British show jumping team for the last 21 years, will be relying once more on the older, experienced 'technicians' of the sport in Barcelona. But he will agonise over the final decision until as late as he dares, as to which four out of David Broome, Tim Grubb, Nick Skelton and the Whitaker brothers, John and Michael, will be in his team.

This option should make it easier to choose the ones in the best form, and best-suited to conditions in Barcelona. It a is close-fought battle, and the uncertainty has caused understandable frustration. For the one finally left in the stands to watch the sports there will also be the regret of time and vital earnings lost over the past few months.

They will need to be extra-fit to cope with the unaccustomed heat and humidity over three tough jumping courses. The first two rounds decide the team contest and also act as qualifiers for final competition for individual medals. With this in mind, and knowing temperatures could reach 90 deg with pollution levels also high, Broome has lost several pounds in weight.

Nick Skelton has also taken off at least a stone, working hard for his team place. He was a late qualifier with the top-class German-bred Hanoverian mare, Dollar Girl, previously ridden for Austria by Thomas Fuchs, and he would have liked a longer preparation time. However, the signs are promising.

Tim Grubb and Denizen have the least obvious claims. Grubb, an American resident, rode for Britain in Los Angeles and has been re-imported. His form, too, has gradually improved and impressed, and Denizen has world-class power.

A lot is expected of John Whitaker, who has the responsibility of riding the almost legendary Milton. The great grey, now 15, could be past his peak, but he is still a dream to watch, like Pegasus as he soars effortlessly through the air. He has not been over-jumped, being prepared specifically for the Games, and his inclusion in the team must enhance enormously Britain's chances of both a team and individual medal.

Michael Whitaker, who like his brother handles pressure well, relies on Monsanta. He has carefully planned this horse's programme to arrive in Barcelona extra-fresh and fit to counteract advancing years.

The opposition will be as tough as ever, but this team, whoever rides, looks to have the best chance since British jumpers last won the gold medal in 1952.

(Photograph omitted)

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