Gutsy Skelton ends on simple shrug

08 August 2012 / 16:59

Showjumper Nick Skelton could not quite repeat his historic Olympic victory - but it is a miracle he is competing at all.

The brave 54-year-old has overcome a life-threatening broken neck and had a hip replacement last year but still rode into the history books after winning Britain's first showjumping gold since 1952 in the team event earlier this week.

The veteran was ahead of his rivals and the last to jump in the final round of the individual competition, but his stallion Big Star clipped the third-to-last fence.

It meant he would finish outside the medal places this time - but that did not dampen the fervour for the home-crowd favourite.

Silence fell on the 23,000 spectators. Only hushed "oohs" and "aahs" were heard as Skelton's mount narrowly cleared each of the jumps, until disaster struck.

Skelton took off his helmet and with a seeming shrug of his shoulders, held out his hands as if to say there was nothing more he could do.

The passionate and patriotic sell-out crowd at Greenwich Park rose as one, giving a standing ovation of cheers, clapping and waving their Union flags. Their appreciation came not just from his performance but for his guts in getting back in the saddle at all.

Skelton told the BBC: "It's one of those things. He hasn't touched a jump all week and that was the worst time to hit one.

"I've been there before. It's the same thing again. What can you do?

"He is still a great horse, he's still fresh, he could go again. He was unlucky. It wasn't meant to be."