Great Britain’s Nick Skelton and horse Big Star take home Great Britain’s first individual show jumping gold in a nail-biting six man jump-off at the Olympic Equestrian Centre.
Skelton, the oldest competitor in Friday’s Jumping Finals, proves that age doesn’t mean a thing except that he’s only gotten better as the 58-year-old delivers three back-to-back clear rounds after starting Friday morning off with a clean slate.
Skelton advanced to the individual jumping finals in a three-way tie for thirty-third place on the individual leader board with a total of 13 accumulated penalty points. He earned a jumping penalty in each qualifying round and added a time penalty on the third individual round.
Determined to compensate for his London upset, Skelton took full advantage of the clean slate he was given in Friday’s Individual Final Rounds. The 58-year-old brought his ‘A Game’ to end Round B in a six- way tie, qualifying for a jump- off to determine the Olympic champion.
Skelton sets the bar high for his rivals with a clear 42.82 second performance. His following rivals fail to contest to his dominant performance.
The 58-year-old’s journey has been far from easy. Skelton made his Olympic debut in 1988, but in 2000 his hopes and dreams of continuing his Olympic career came to a halt after breaking the Cl vertebra in his neck from falling at the Park Gate Shows in Cheshire, England. Skelton’s fall also caused a ligament to snap and tore away a piece of his spine.
Skelton reitred from the riding in 2001 after surgeons advised him to give up the sport due to risk of a fatal injury. The following year Skelton received news that the bones in his neck had healed beyond expectations and returned to the saddle in 2002.
Six Games after his debut, Skelton earns a fairytale ending to his equestrian career by not only adding an individual gold title to his London 2012 team title, but he becomes the first British individual show jumper to earn a golden title.
Sweden’s Peder Fredricson is the only other rider besides Skelton to clear the jump-off course, but falls short to Skelton with a time of 43.35 to claim silver. The eventer turned show jumper displayed an incredible Olympic performance, accumulating a mere 1 penalty point in all six rounds he competed in. Unfortunately he could not beat Skelton’s time to add a golden title to his 2004 team silver.
Canada’s Eric Lamaze’s perfect Olympic run comes to an unfortunate end in the individual jump –off. The Olympic veteran was the only rider to perform five consecutive clear rounds in the Rio Olympics until the final round. Lamaze hits his first pole of the games in the jump-off and that pole costs him the gold. If Lamaze had taken a few seconds longer to jump a little higher, the veteran would have still finished with the fastest time and without any penalty points.