ALREADY a six-time Olympian, Warwickshire’s Nick Skelton will break the record of British Olympic appearances when he trots out for the show jumping in Rio next month.
Skelton, who attended Bablake School as a youngster, had not won an Olympic medal of any colour before being part of Britain’s successful team jumping quartet at London 2012.
Now, at age 58, the veteran is returning to the Olympic arena for a final swan song, and he aims to add another gold to the one he won in Greenwich Park four years ago.
Skelton will once again be riding Beverley Widdowson’s Big Star in Brazil and he said that the horse’s retirement will likely mean his too.
“It feels very good, but I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to compete this long, you can only do it with the horses that you have and I’ve been very lucky to have some very good horses, so that helps,” said the three-time European champion.
“London was outstanding, it gives you that drive to go again and want more.
“I’m not looking beyond Rio though, I think that will be it. I definitely would not get another Olympic Games out of Big Star and I wouldn’t get another horse like him, so I wouldn’t think of continuing Tokyo, or anything like that.
“My body has taken its toll over the last few years. I try to stay fit but I’ve suffered from back injuries. You just keep going though while you can.”
Skelton highlighted the Americans as the team to beat this year but said competition could come from all quarters, with the Dutch, French and Swedes also on his list of nations to look out for.
After five Games without a win though, Skelton now has the golden bug and said he would be disappointed with anything less than standing on the top step of the podium again.
“There’s only one thing that counts as a successful Rio for me, winning. Winning is what it is all about, anything less than that would be a failure,” he added.
“The Olympic experience has changed, show jumping-wise it has changed a lot. The courses have become more horse friendly, with lighter materials and we now jump on sand all the time.
“The backup we have now, from Team GB, UK Sport and the National Lottery, has been immensely helpful, which I think has proved by us winning more medals as the years have gone on.
“It’s still about the horses though and Big Star is a great character, well up for the job, so I am happy to be on him again.
“It’s very important, especially when you’re getting on in age, like me. If I didn’t have him I don’t think I would be going to Rio, for sure.
“We bought him when he was five years old, so I’ve been riding him for eight years and we understand each other well.”
The multi-award winning Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (September 1st – 4th) has been established as a major international equestrian and social event in the Autumn Sporting Calendar for over 50 years. For more information visit burghley-horse.co.uk