Equestrian: Team GB win gold in team showjumping

 

Great Britain's showjumpers have won gold in the Olympic team competition after a dramatic finale at Greenwich Park today.

It was Britain's first Olympic showjumping title for 60 years, and came after the host nation and Holland finished tied after two rounds of jumping.

All four team members - Nick Skelton, Ben Maher, Scott Brash and Peter Charles - then rode again in front of a capacity 23,000 crowd.

And Skelton (Big Star), Maher (Tripple X III) and Charles (Vindicat) all jumped clear to land gold, leaving the Netherlands with silver, while Saudi Arabia clinched bronze.

The Dutch cracked under pressure in the jump-off phase, with Mikael van der Vleuten and Marc Houtzager both having fences down.

The British team is one that has been transformed since team manager Rob Hoekstra took over in February 2010.

The last time Britain won an Olympic gold medal was at Helsinki in 1952 with a team of Harry Llewellyn, Duggie Stewart and Wilf White.

And it was the first showjumping medal of any description since a team silver in Los Angeles 28 years ago.

Skelton, 54, Charles, 52, Maher, 29, and Brash, 26, were fancied by many as genuine medal contenders.

But to realise their golden dream amid remarkable, unforgettable scenes on home soil will never never be forgotten.

And British equestrian is likely to have further medal success tomorrow when the dressage team of Carl Hester, Laura Bechtolsheimer and Charlotte Dujardin go for gold.

The trio are competition leaders ahead of the grand prix special phase.

Skelton said he was more nervous watching his team-mates than riding himself.

"I wish I could have gone four times," he told BBC3. "They've done great, the lads have done great. Absolutely brilliant.

"I've got a wonderful horse, wonderful owners, it's a dream come true."

Skelton will now go for a second gold in the individual event, and he said: "One's good. Absolutely brilliant. Great for the country, great for our sport. It's taken all these years."

Britain went into the second day tied for second place with Holland, Switzerland and Sweden, three penalties behind surprise leaders Saudi Arabia.

But at the end of a gripping second round they shared the lead with Holland, which set up the astonishing finale.

Skelton and Scotsman Brash, riding Hello Sanctos on his Olympic debut, both jumped clear, while Maher had an unlucky fence down and Charles collected five faults.

Final Dutch rider Gerco Schroder would have won the competition in "nornal time" had he jumped clear - ironically on a horse called London - but four faults then took it into extra time.

With time now vital, Skelton and Big Star were clear in 47.27 seconds, Maher clear in 48.14 seconds and Charles also clear, but time did not matter in his case as a clear round would have been enough.

The Dutch could only look on after van der Vleuten and Houtzager had faults, and their final rider Schroder was surplus to requirements as Britain had already done enough.

The host nation, European team bronze medallists in Madrid last summer, are now at the peak of their powers, but Hoekstra never wavered from his belief that they could not only challenge the best in world showjumping, but also beat them.

The British riders received a standing ovation as they rode out for the medal ceremony.

If two more medals are collected at Greenwich Park this week, it will be British equestrian's most successful Games in Olympic history.

PA

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