LONDON 2012: Veteran Skelton named in Britain's Olympic show jumping team
SHOW jumper Nick Skelton has been confirmed in Great Britain's Olympic team - and hopes it's a case of seventh time lucky this summer.
Skelton, 54, is the oldest member of 397-strong Team GB announced so far and will be competing at his sixth Games, although he also won team silver at the 1980 Alternative Olympics, staged due to the boycott of the Moscow Games.
Success could cap a remarkable year for an evergreen rider who won the first of five World Championship medals 30 years ago. It's 12 years since Skelton 'retired' after breaking his neck, although just a few years later he was back competing at the Athens Games, where he lead until the final round.
“Seventh time lucky hopefully; I’m really pleased to be selected," said Skeleton, who will ride Big Star in Greenwich, the horse he partnered to double bronze at last year's European Championships.
"The horses are going well at the moment and I hope we’ve got a good chance although you never know what will happen on the day.
"Henry [Big Star] is a placid, easy going horse and doesn’t seem to mind the big occasions so I wouldn’t think Greenwich will faze him too much.
“I’ve just got to thank Gary and Beverley Widdowson, the horse’s owners who’ve stuck by me even through I’m getting on a bit in years.
"Having a horse at the Olympics has always been their aim. They’ve refused a lot of money and not many would have resisted the temptation to sell so I’m very lucky to have their support.”
Skelton will be joined in the team by Scott Brash, 26, Peter Charles, 52, and Ben Maher, 29. Tina Fletcher has been named as a reserve.
It will be Scot Brash's Olympic debut while Charles competed for Ireland in 1992 and 1996. Maher made his Olympic bow in Beijing and was alongside Skeleton when Great Britain won the team title at last year's European Championship.
"Making the team is one thing but the hard work really starts now, there’s a lot of pressure to live up to, hopefully we can pull everything together at the right time," said Maher.
"I love competing on home soil, it’s lucky for me and it will be great that so many people who’ve helped me get where I am will be able to relate to that."
Despite having two 50 somethings in his squad - the quartet has an average age of 40 - Rob Hoekstra believes the team has a bright future.
"We are going to London with an extremely strong, talented and young team of horses," he said.
"We have three ten year-olds and one nine year-old which I would imagine to be the youngest team of horses that you will see there. As a team, we go as a strong unit, fighting together with an aim of making Great Britain proud."