Monday, August 6, 2012
A ‘real’ silver medal is how Mary King views her Olympic ‘gong’, the previous silver having been upgraded from bronze when a rider in the gold ‘winning’ team was disqualified in Athens.
But she has no intention of quitting in her quest for the gold version and already has her sights firmly set on Rio in four years’ time.
Her horse, Imperial Cavalier, now at his eventing peak of experience at 15, is rated by King as ‘the best’ she has had but he will be ‘too old’ for top level competition in a hot climate by 2016.
Whether any of her up-and-coming youngsters will be good enough will remain to be seen, but Imperial Cavalier’s owners, Sue and Eddie Davies and their daughter Janette Chinn, are stalwart supporters and, no doubt, already have their eye on possible replacements.
The 2012 Olympic competition will long be remembered as the one that engaged the nation.
The atmosphere at Greenwich Park, a stone’s throw from the Olympic park itself, was described as a ‘wave of craziness’ by fellow team member William Fox-Pitt.
King put the team in second place after the dressage by nailing the test - thought by many to be her best ever at Championship level. Her horse, known as ‘Archie’ can be hotheaded and she rode into the arena with her finger to her lips, begging the crowd for silence. They obliged, and Archie delivered, along with the other team combinations.
The next day’s cross country was over a twisting and undulating track - Archie is a big horse and it was a always gamble that King’s skill could anchor him well enough to produce his customary class performance. It was edge of your seat stuff but King was at her best, with a clear round and just one time penalty. With four other clears, Team GB were in a strong silver medal place behind Germany going into the last day’s showjumping that gripped the nation. The pressure was on as New Zealand and Sweden were snapping at their heels within a showjump down penalty.
Riding fourth of Team GB’s five, a clear round from King was crucial as seven penalties from Zara Phillips had put that silver within reach of chasing New Zealand. As King entered the arena to start her round, the only noise was the sound of press cameras firing, as King imagined she was back at a team training session.
She did it and with a double clear on the board, she put herself in the running for an individual medal. It rested on Tina Cook on Miner’s Frolic to stay error free for team silver. She too stayed ice cool and got the vital double clear.
Germany had higher individual placings in their team and when last to go leader Ingrid Klimke made mistakes, they were able to collect the gold by discarding her score. New Zealand were third. Team GB had their silver
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With the team medal secured there was no time for celebration as the morning’s jumping had also served as qualification for individual medals, which were competed for by the top 25 riders, jumping in reverse order.
King was in third place and with a chance of individual gold. Tina Cook was in fourth, but both had two fences down and finished up with King fifth and Cook sixth. Zara Phillips had a clear round and moved up to eighth individually.
She said: “There was a ‘bronze’ lion in the centre of the arena - I rode too close to it and it frightened Archie. The bell went and I started my round. I should have ridden a circle to get his mind back on the job but I didn’t and he had the first two fences down. He settled for the latter part of the course and jumped beautifully.”
As if to illustrate the vagaries of the sport, Swedish rider Sara Algottson- Ostholt jumped last, for the gold medal, and had a pole down on the very last fence to lose it, leaving Germany’s Michael Jung to take individual gold as well as team. He became the first man to hold Olympic, World and European golds concurrently.