King Charles holds nerve in jump-off to guide GB to gold

Blend of youth and old hands sees off Dutch in gripping Greenwich finale

Sixty years after a team led by Harry Llewellyn and his legendary horse, Foxhunter, brought home gold from the Helsinki games, Britain's showjumpers once again brought pride to a sport that has, in the modern era, slipped from its position once so deep in the national psyche.

Yesterday at Greenwich, Nick Skelton and his mount Big Star, Ben Maher and Triple X, Scott Brash and Hello Sanctos and Peter Charles and Vindicat produced a near-perfect performance to pip the Netherlands in an enthralling finale.

With the favourites, the Germans and reigning champions the USA, out of contention before yesterday's final round, and the surprise leaders, Saudi Arabia, dropping away to bronze, the battle for gold and silver became a head-to-head.

With a format counting the best three scores from each four-man team over two rounds, the Netherlands could have won it in 'normal time' had their last rider, Gerco Shroeder – on a horse called London – gone clear.

But one fence down meant the Dutch and British were tied on eight faults, representing just two lowered obstacles apiece, after two days of jumping requiring power and accuracy from horse and rider over fences designed to represent British and Greenwich landmarks.

In a gripping sudden-death jump-off, with riders from each nation alternating, Skelton and Maher jumped clear and Brash tipped just one pole. The opposition for the Netherlands posted a clear, then rounds for eight and four faults. It all depended on the anchor man for each team and when Charles held his nerve and steered Vindicat, the least experienced horse on the British team, clear over every fence and landed over the last, the Tower Bridge, with daylight to spare, victory was assured.

The medal won by Llewellyn and his team-mates, Wilf White on Nizefela and Duggie Stewart on Aherlow, was Britain's sole gold in Helsinki. Yesterday's heroes, two and four-legged, brought their country's 17th of these games, but one to treasure as much as any, prompting a standing ovation from a 23,000 crowd.

The four riders brought experience and youth to their party, played out in an iconic setting. Skelton, 54, and Charles, 52, are veterans of seven Olympics between them; Brash, 26 is an Olympic rookie and Maher a second-timer, having ridden in the 2008 games.

For Skelton, the gold medal is the end of a particularly determined and fraught personal journey, for the Warwickshire rider's career hung in the balance after he broke his neck 12 years ago. On Beverley Widdowson's magnificent nine-year-old stallion, Big Star, he led from the front with every round faultless.

Skelton admitted he found watching his team-mates more nerve-racking than jumping. "I wish I could have gone round four times," he said. "But it's just brilliant. It's taken all these years but what a place to do it. It's great for our country and our sport."

The fortunes of showjumping's elite performers have been transformed since team manager Rob Hoekstra (ironically, Dutch-born) took over two years ago. Yesterday's success was the first showjumping medal of any stripe since team silver in Los Angeles in 1984. But there will be the opportunity to add to this year's haul; after their team performances, Skelton and his team-mates go to tomorrow's two-round individual competition high in the rankings.

The British eventing team took team silver last week and today the dressage riders – Carl Hester, Laura Bechtolsheimer and Charlotte Dujardin – go into their final phase as leaders. At this Olympics it seems that, as well as two legs, two wheels, two oars or two paddles, it is a case of, once again at long last, four legs good.

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup