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Charles: We proved doubters wrong

August 7, 2012 15:50 pm

Gold medallist Peter Charles believes Great Britain's successful showjumpers have emphatically proved the doubters wrong and put the sport "back on the map" in the country.

The four-strong team of Charles, Nick Skelton, Ben Maher and Scott Brash claimed Britain's first Olympic showjumping gold in 60 years with victory in a dramatic jump-off against Holland at Greenwich Park.

It was a far cry from the situation in 2009 when Britain only avoided relegation from the top league of the European Nations Cup on a legal technicality.

Veteran rider Charles, 52, said: "I knew if we got everything right on the day - I know the cards have got to fall your way, but I had a good feeling we could win it.

"There were a few people that thought we couldn't, but we proved them wrong.

"We had to try to get our sport back on the map. We all knew that and we were all very conscious of the level of support we have had from our owners, Team GB, the funding - we have had a lot of assistance to get to this point and so there was a lot of responsibility on us to go and do that.

"But we feel we have won it for the whole of showjumping and hopefully we have brought it to a bigger audience and everybody will get something out of it.

"The longevity will last beyond the Olympics."

Charles, who competed for Ireland at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics, secured victory when he jumped clear in the final round of the jump-off on his horse Vindicat.

It completed a remarkable personal fairytale for Charles, who suffered a serious spinal injury, broken ribs and vertebra after a fall in 2006.

He said: "I think the courses were some of the best the we have ever seen in the world. A lot of thought went into it.

"The Germans couldn't cope, the French couldn't cope, the Americans - all the favourites, we beat them by a distance.

"We didn't just beat them, we absolutely annihilated them, which is fantastic.

"We have never won by that margin against those teams before. It came down to us and the Dutch and we got the job done."

Skelton, competing in his sixth Olympics, has also recovered from serious injury to continue in the sport. The in-form 56-year-old, who is now among the favourites for the individual competition, was advised to retire after breaking his neck in two places following a fall 10 years ago.

Maher, 29, who also went clear in the jump-off on Tripple X III, paid tribute to his team-mates.

He said: "It was a great team to be on. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity do this at home, in London, and it couldn't have gone any better.

"I have dreamt about this for a long time but I am not that old.

"There are two much older, more experienced guys on the team that have had to wait much longer than I have, but it is unbelievable to do it.

"We have got a long future ahead of us but it is never going to happen again in London.

"It was important to get this one right and bring our sport back to where it should be.

"It is a popular sport. It proved it can have an exciting end for all people, young and old."

Maher, like Skelton and Brash, has little time to ready himself for the individual event but is determined to enjoy the moment.

He said: "It was great. The other guys went on the missing list for an hour and a half.

"I went back to the hotel to have a shower and clean up a bit, they took to the first party out of the gate.

"I caught up with them later on, it was unbelievable. All the crowds from the arena just fell out into a street party.

"I have never seen anything like it, the support was unbelievable.

I have jumped in a lot of arenas in my relatively short career and it has not come anywhere close to that.

"I don't think it will come around again like that, so we are making the most of it."

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