Stockdale eyes remarkable return

20 June 2012 / 15:26

Tim Stockdale could be just days away from completing one of the most remarkable comebacks by a British athlete in Olympics history.

Just eight months ago showjumper Stockdale suffered dreadful injuries that threatened to turn his Olympic dream into a career-ending nightmare. What had started as a routine day trying out a young horse in north Wales ended with him being treated for three fractured neck vertebrae and severe trauma injuries.

He spent six weeks flat on his back at a specialist spinal unit in Oswestry. Incredibly, though, he jumped a double clear with Fresh Direct Kalico Bay on his Nations Cup comeback in St Gallen three weeks ago, then repeated the feat for second place behind German star Marcus Ehning in the grand prix two days later.

The Rotterdam Nations Cup is next on Friday, before Great Britain team chief Rob Hoekstra finalises his London 2012 team and possibly confirms 2008 Olympian Stockdale's return to the summit of world showjumping.

"A lot of people had written my chances off, so to be able to still be in there with the form that I've got is very satisfying," Stockdale said. "My Olympic hopes I kept to a very few people because I didn't want to seem as though I was being too unrealistic. If I get to London, I will have expended a lot of energy to get there, but in a good way. I am pretty good under pressure."

Entering the Olympic arena at Greenwich Park in early August was a prospect that appeared so far-fetched only a few months ago even for a character as determined, optimistic and affable as 47-year-old Stockdale.

And he admits there were days of unimaginable darkness while he came to terms with what had happened to him, adding: "I was very, very lucky. At the very start, my mood was one of severe frustration and quite deep depression.

"I felt slightly cheated because every sportsman that is involved in sport as a living always thinks they are going to have the opportunity to choose their own demise, to be in charge of when they retire. But to have that thrust upon you in those circumstances, I felt really cheated. That was not how it was supposed to be.

"If it had happened in a competition and I was trying to win the class in front of 5,000 spectators or something and had this horrible fall, at least it would have had a slight romanticism about it. But to be trying a young horse on a Welsh hillside on a miserable cold October day, and that finishing my career, I just thought was incredibly unfair.

"The first week was the hardest. I was pretty poorly. The pain was coming from my stomach, I had severe trauma to the right hand side of my body, I was on morphine for the first five or six days. I just felt pretty lousy, but then I started to feel better in myself within another fortnight and started to plan for going forward."