He broke his neck in a fall 16 years ago, he has a replacement hip, he’s 58 years old, competing at his seventh Olympic Games, and he was riding a horse that has been struggling with injury for over two years, but Nick Skelton made Olympic history when becoming the first ever British rider to win individual jumping gold at Deodoro Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro today.
In a thrilling finale to an extraordinary two weeks of equestrian sport, the man who helped claim his country’s first Olympic team jumping medals—and golden ones at that—for 60 years in London (GBR) four years ago, simply galloped the rest into the ground when pace-setter in a third-round jump-off against the clock with Big Star.
Sweden’s Peder Fredricson and the brilliant All In claimed silver when producing the only other fault-free performance in the closing stages, while Canada’s Eric Lamaze took the bronze when posting the fastest time but leaving a fence on the floor with Fine Lady.
Skelton is not a man known for displays of emotion, but he couldn’t hold back the tears when he climbed onto the podium to receive the ultimate sporting accolade. And the response of his fellow-riders showed just how respected he is, 2008 Olympic champion Lamaze grinning as though he was taking the gold himself as he congratulated the British rider with an enormous hug.
“I’ve been in this sport a long, long time and to win this at my age makes me so happy, I always wanted to do it and nearly did it in London”, Skelton said, referring to his fifth-place finish in 2012.
He wasn’t the only tearful athlete this afternoon,