Sue Montgomery: Experience counts in showjumping... as long as the horse is doing the work

 

Nick Skelton, 54, has been a regular member of the British show jumping team since 1979 but, though he was its oldest member yesterday, three years Peter Charles' senior, he was by no means the oldest man jumping. That honour went to 65-year-old Canadian Ian Millar, competing at his 10th Olympic games.

Mary King, winner of team eventing silver a week ago, was thundering across country at the age of 51. But all the above-named must bow to Hiroshi Hoketsu. The Japanese dressage rider is, at 71, the oldest competitor in any sport. The London Games are his third Olympics; he rode as a show jumper in Tokyo in 1964.

Equestrian sports are one where golden oldies – the riders, anyway – can take on younger riders on an equal footing. Even if they do not bounce as readily in a fall, a rider's longevity in sport can be remarkable. The jockey Lester Piggott, for instance, rode his last winner at the age of 58. The reason is obvious; in the centaur partnership of horse and rider, the prime athlete, the one under most physical stress, is the equine.

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