Skelton wins as every day rewrites Olympic history

Skelton wins as every day rewrites Olympic history
By Sportsbeat

20/08/2016 at 16:16Updated

Another day and another chance to write the word ‘historic' in your intro - all this success is becoming the norm, like having Christmas Day every other month or your birthday every Wednesday.

Of course, one day it will have to stop - just not quite yet though.

Nick Skelton became Britain's oldest Olympic gold medallist in any sport, eclipsing shooter Jerry Millner, who won gold in 1908, with his show jumping victory on horse Big Star.

Skelton, 58, claims he is usually mistaken for an ‘athlete's father' when wearing team kit but longevity comes with perks, he always gets a seat on the bus to the Olympic Village.

Only a handful of his Team GB colleagues were born when he made the first of his seven Olympic appearances in 1988 but age hasn't wearied a rider considered as one of the greatest horsemen of all-time.

Along with Big Star, the horse he won team gold on four years ago, Skelton held his nerve in a thrilling jump-off - setting a scorching pace to match the scorching weather and burning off all rivals in the process.

Horses, bikes or boats - whatever the mode of transport, Great Britain is making their presence felt.

Skelton admits he is in his ‘professional dotage' but Big Star is a horse at the peak of his powers - and together experience and youth can sometimes be a perfect formula.

"This has really capped my career," said Skelton.

"I've been in the sport a long time and to win this now at my age is amazing. I've always wanted to do this – I nearly did it in London.

"I've had European medals and world medals, but to win this is pretty emotional for all concerned in my team. It's the perfect way to end my career."

If you want a true sports personality then you don't have to look much further than Skelton. From his run-ins with the legendary Harvey Smith to holding court at the bar of the pub he recently bought, sometimes with good friend Tony Iommi, the guitarist from Black Sabbath.

But he remains as passionate about horses today as he was 28 years ago in Seoul, they dominate the life of him and his family, with sons Dan and Harry, whose exploits in horse racing, as a trainer and jockey respectively, are a sense of endless pride to their father.

"My groom has been with me for 31 years but if you see how many hours he spends with my horse you'd be amazed," added Skelton.

"He only looks after that one horse and he's with him nine hours a day constantly.

"I was first to go and I thought that I had to go as fast as I could but be he is an absolutely amazing horse. "You can trust him, he wants to do it and he has all the right attributes. For me he's the best horse I've had and will ever have."

Therefore when doctors told him 16 years ago that his riding career was over, Skelton was never likely to listen.

He'd broken his neck in two places after a horror fall shortly before the Olympics in Sydney, claiming - quite matter of factly - that he heard the crack in his head when he hit the ground.

His story is a Jilly Cooper novel, you need the plot twist and comeback story to make it worth the telling.

But this will be it - there will be no eighth Games, no attempt to match Canada's Ian Millar, who was due to appear, aged 69, at an 11th Games here before he was cut from the team just a month ago.

Horses will always be his life but he'll be writing no more history in Tokyo.

Skelton is now looking forward to returning to his pub, the Durham Ox in Shrewley, Warwickshire, for a celebration party it's worth blagging a ticket too.

Meanwhile, Big Star - the finest horse of his storied career - will fly home in luxury, with his favourite hay and apple juice as flight snacks.

"I'm not going to stop now but I only ride Big Star and when he stops, I'll stop for definite," added Skelton.

"Someone else will do it in four years. I'll never have another horse as good as Big Star and I'll be too old.

"I've not had a worry all week and I really knew this horse would win it. I knew if I kept my cool this horse would do it and he did. I knew if I did not make a mistake, he wouldn't either."

Sportsbeat 2016

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