Big Star, the 13-year-old KWPN stallion by Quick Star/Nimmerdor, who already was said to be the top horse in the world and of whom everybody expected that he would win Olympic gold in London now made it to the top with British Nick Skelton. The top pair won against their five opponent pairs in the jump off. Silver went to Swedish Peder Fredericson and sBs gelding All in by Kashmir van Schuttershof/Andiamo, who was a bit slower than Skelton, Bronze went to Candadian Eric Lamaze with Hanoverian mare Fine Lady by Forsyth/Drosseklang II, who had a mistake at the last obstacle.
The victory was a very emotional one for the 58-year-old rider who is the oldest rider ever to win in an Olympic equestrian competition, also partly due to the history of his talented Big Star. In 2013, Big Star and Skelton won the Grand Prix in Aachen, but then the horse suffered a tendon injury at the Nations Cup in Dublin. For many months the chic horse couldn’t be competed. In 2014 they tried a comeback, but it took only two months then another injury followed. In 2015 the pair only attended an event at Vilamoura in October. Then Skelton, who won team gold in London in 2012 and finished with Big Star in fifth place of the individual ranking, carefully build up the Quick star son. But nobody really knew in which form Big Star really was. “It’s been a long way with hard, hard work. Many people have invested so much time into this process,” Skelton said, who had tears in his eyes during the awards ceremony. “For three years he has not been competed at an event like this. I never competed with him against the time.”
His patience has paid off. But Skelton also had difficult moments during his own career. Once, in 2001, he even gave up the equestrian sport altogether. The year before he broke his neck, the first vertebra at an event in England. He missed Sydney due to his injury and had to wear a metal support piece in his neck for some months. The physicians strongly advised him against riding. But in 2002 a German physician told him that his vertebra was healed so well that he could get back into the saddle. Now, participating for the seventh time, Nick Skelton has become an Olympic winner.
Swedish Peder Fredericson was able to win his second Olympic medal – in 2004 he also won silver with the team. In 1992 Fredericson already participated at the Olympic Games, but then he was still an eventing rider. Then he switched to the show jumpers. In contrast to many others the rider wasn’t too surprised:” I knew that I have a very good horse. I didn’t expect it but I hoped for this ending.”
Canadian Eric Lamaze won his second individual medal after winning gold in Hongkong. As yet only six riders were able to win two individual medals – now he’s one of them. The 48-year-old was especially proud of his Hanoverian mare: “She gave everything and threw her heart into it.”
The two German riders Christian Ahlmann and Daniel Deußer were disappointed. Christian Ahlmann and Taloubet Z by Galoubet A/Polydor had a mistake at the second obstacle of the double combination in the second round. “I couldn’t expect that,” he said after his ride. “I had a wonderful feeling. He miscalculated a bit in the last moment, the last bit of luck was just missing today. It’s a pity, I first have to let it all sink in. But we really had bad Olympic Games – and this time that wasn’t the case. I’m proud of Taloubet and how he performed here with his 16 years. I will take so much positive things home with me.”
Daniel Deußer was also disappointed; he and First Class by Balou Du Rouet had a mistake at the second obstacle. However, he wasn’t really dissatisfied: “My horse jumped well and he finished the course with ease.” The German tried to find an explanation for the mistake: “The oxer was quite wide. I didn’t try a wide obstacle before – maybe that was missing. It’s a disappointment. I only began to realise it while jumping the last obstacle. But I’m still content with the overall result. If I was not content with these Olympic Games I would have to stop competing. I think that I will be even more motivated in four years.”
The two German riders finished in ninth place, which they share. National coach Otto Becker commended his “boys”: “Both rode at the highest level. The mistakes are even more annoying. But they don’t have to hide. Meredith also did great rounds here. Her elimination was unfortunate.” The national coach voiced his regret that Ludger Beerbaum announced his withdrawal from the national team: “To some extent it makes me sad and feel a bit wistful. But then it’s nice that he was able to win another medal here.”
Photos: Stefan Lafrentz