|Sadly No Fairytale Headline For Neville Bardos, But Perhaps A Medal & An Underwear Deal For Boyd|
One of the legacies I’m left with after five years of living with a broadsheet journalist is the little game of “Guess Tomorrow’s Headline” we played as we waited for the morning papers, each paper adding their own particular style (or lack of it in the case of the tabloids) to the big story of the day. Every single Olympian must dream of winning one of those shiny metal medallions, and speculate over the headlines in the national & trade press the following morning.
This year’s Olympics, more than any other I can remember, gives rise to so many dream headlines depending on the winners, losers, lovers and sinners from the eventing world stage. Just run your eyes over the long list of horses and riders in the line up for the eventing at Greenwich and it’s not hard to image what any number of headlines, littered with superlatives, might read given the number of hugely popular combinations dreaming of making history in the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The hype is already on a full spin cycle, and the social media channels are awash with updates and photos from within the cauldran of the Olympic village and venues, as the athletes arrive, and thousands of volunteers and contractors lift the dust sheets to build the greatest show on earth.
Great Britain is the spiritual and cultural home of the sport, and even our immigrant population of eventers from around the globe are as excited about these Olympics as we Brits are. All of this leaves me with a sense of ‘de-nationalisation’ as I intend to cheer on horses and riders from numerous countries – I’m cheering for the Eventing Nation (a little unintentional mention for the splendid US based website).
If I can possibly get five minutes to myself, in between the day job and finishing off the HorseHub App I own a slice of, I’m planning to have a few t-shirts printed with some of my own “headlines of tomorrow” to wear to Greenwich in support of our great eventing fraternity, although I have no idea what I might paint on my face, should I decide to go that far! (any suggestions?)
Anyway, here’s my guide to the Eventing history makers of Greenwich & the London 2012 Olympic Games.
My Ten To Follow:
|Nicola Wilson & Opposition Buzz|
The undisputed event horse of our time, Opposition Buzz, made it onto Team GBR at the last minute after double disappointment through injury put paid to Piggy French’s chances. There isn’t a rider alive who wouldn’t sell their first born to ride this horse round one of the championship tracks. He may not have the stellar black type results you will find for many other horses in the field, but he’s solid, dependable, always in contention, and sheer poetry to watch cross country, and improving all the time.
|Caroline Powell & Lenamore|
50 Shades of
Grey Pure Gold, and at 19, Lenamore may be considered a vetran, but like a good Chateau Nuef, this horse just improves with age, winning Burghley at 17 years of age, and he skips round any 4 star track like a jack rabbit. If BE points were club card points, he’d have enough to buy a big screen TV. He’s had a relatively light season, and probably doesn’t need a master class in anything. Who wouldn’t like to see him and the lovely Caroline Powell grab a medal for the Kiwis.
|Andrew Nicholson “Rides Like He Stole It”|
Andrew is eventing’s own Usain Bolt, this guy never sits still, and is a heavy weight of the fraternity. He has a clutch of medals already, has won numerous 3-day-events, except Badminton, and sees current ride, Nereo, as his best ever Individual Olympic Medal hope (he won Bronze at WEG2010). I know the picture is of his back up horse, Avebury, but I remember Andrew going all out at Beijing, and he rides Avebury “like he stole him” because the horse prefers it that way. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him do that in Greenwich on Nereo. This horse is deceptively fast, and elegant and agile to boot! Just what you need when hunting medals.
|William Fox Pitt & Lionheart|
Willy Win Gold? Plenty think so. William’s stable is like Imelda Markos’ boot room – full of high class, pricey and fancy looking foot work, only of the four legged kind. Only Andrew Nicholson can match him for sheer volume of advanced super star horses, and yet William wins almost everytime they meet. Probably the most successful event rider of all time, depending on how you judge success, William Fox-Pitt is the media favourite for Gold, and is like eventing’s version of Roger Moore’s James Bond Role – dashing and debonair! Gold would cap his career, leaving him with only the Rolex Grand Slam to grab and leave him untouchable at the top of the eventing tree of legends.
Like a force of nature, it would be easy to under estimate this man, as he is not as visible on the main 4 star circuit like all of the others listed here, but the current World & European Champion, is seen by most of his rivals as the man to beat. With typical German precision this man can execute a win the moment he walks in the gate, and he’s on the sort of stellar form that possibly only William Fox-Pitt could currently match. The big difference for Greenwich is that Michael is on a far better horse. It’s a brave man, or a fool, that bets against Michael winning gold.
|Mark Todd & NZB Campino|
It’s easier to list the events Mark hasn’t won at least twice, (He won back-to-back Individual Olympic Golds on Charisma). Not only is he a legend in his own lifetime, he’s an out and out magician in the saddle. If anyone can pull a rabbit out of the hat and win a medal on a less experienced horse here at Greenwich it’s Mark Todd. For many it’s a case of producing your best performance on the day, but Mark produces that form every day, and he’s the oldest in the field. Must be the Yoga!
|Chris Burton & Holstein Park Leilani|
The Australians have not had the smoothest of rides in the run up to the games, and snatched a team slot by the hollowest of victories, but they have a smoking gun in the shape of Chris Burton. I remember watching him at Pau and thinking this guy has it all lined up. I think he has played a very shrewd game in his preparations for the games, peaking his horses only when it really matters. He’s my pick of the Australians.
|Boyd Martin & Otis Barbotiere|
Unfortunately the headlines that hollywood fairytales are made of won’t be the same if Boyd wins a medal, as his death defying wonder horse of folkelore, Neville Bardos, has been replaced on the team by the more swanky looking, and less experienced Otis Barbotiere. Nevertheless, America is the world’s greatest importer (Boyd hails from Australia), and they have a knack of taking home a good slice of the medal haul at Olympic Games. I think this is a very classy horse after watching it at Barbury, and a medal is well within this guy’s reach. After negotiating a movie rights deal, and being named one of the sexiest Olympians he’ll probably get an underwear deal with Calvin Klein too – look out David Beckham! (Eventing Nation would go in to meltdown!)
|Zara Phillips Rides High Kingdom|
Sadly for Zara, whatever happens at Greenwich, she’s going to make the headlines by virtue of her heritage. She is without question one of the greatest riders on the planet right now, and a World & European Champion (something you don’t achieve without natural talent & competitive drive). I’m tempted to say I think she is one of Team GB’s medal contenders, if for no other reason, above almost all others in the field, the Olympic pressure must be a breeze in comparison to her daily life.
|Mary King & Imperial Cavalier|
Ah, Mary King! Everybody’s favourite superwoman of eventing, who like many of the others in this list has build a track record you can write books about. I’ve watched Mary on this horse with great interest, he’s such a striking animal with real presence and a unique jumping style. On top form throughout 2011, and like many had a disrupted spring campaign due to the weather, but I think this could be Mary’s best shot at the Olympics, and it would make one hell of a story.
2 others I must just mention are; Apollo van de Wendi Kurt Hoeve (Stefano Brecciaroli – ITA) – I remember being bowled over by watching this horse at WEG2010 – very classy, plus Samantha Albert who rides as an individual for Jamaica, and lives just down the road from my office – there’s nothing like a local hero! It’s great to see someone living the dream as an individual – you can read more about Samantha in an interview from the Guardian.
|Get Your Games Face On!|
There is now just one week to go, London is already buzzing, busy, and chaotic! Travelling in town is nothing sort of mayhem if you’re relying on planes, trains or automobiles, but this is a home Olympics and nothing short a heart attack could dampen my spirits now, not even another month of rain.
The Games are afoot. It’s time to boot up, strap in, and paint your face!
The London 2012 Olympic Games are here!
|Here’s Hoping William Fox-Pitt Doesn’t Give Us Another Scare Like He Did At The Europeans|