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Eventing ace Collett caps emotional equestrian journey - from hospital bed to summit of Olympic podium

·4-min read
HINCH HEROICS, CAMPBELL POWERS TO SILVER, EVENTING GOLD - TEAM GB WRAP DAY 10
HINCH HEROICS, CAMPBELL POWERS TO SILVER, EVENTING GOLD - TEAM GB WRAP DAY 10

By James Toney in Tokyo

Laura Collett's journey from a hospital bed to the top of the Olympic podium may just be one of the most remarkable stories of these Games.

Because if anyone has lived the Olympic founder Pierre de Coubertin words about struggle being more life defining than triumph, it is her.

Collett joined forces with Oliver Townend and Tom McEwen to win Great Britain's first eventing team gold in 49 years.

In half a century they've been close, silver medallists in Los Angeles, Seoul, Sydney, Athens and London and bronze medallists in Beijing.

But the top step has always alluded them until this fab three - and their respective 'horses of a lifetime' - delivered the best result in generations.

But, in truth, Collett's greatest victory remains surviving a horror fall in 2013 that had her friends and family fearing the very worst.

She spent six days in a coma, her spine, shoulder and ribs shattered while finding herself permanently blind in one eye.

DOUBLE MIXED RELAY JOY, ASHER-SMITH HEARTBREAK, BRONZES IN SAILING AND BOXING - TEAM GB WRAP DAY 8
DOUBLE MIXED RELAY JOY, ASHER-SMITH HEARTBREAK, BRONZES IN SAILING AND BOXING - TEAM GB WRAP DAY 8

"Before having the accident I could have only dreamed of being here, let alone standing here with a gold medal around my neck," she said after a triumph broadcast live on Eurosport and Discovery+.

"I look back and I think back to where I was eight years ago, I knew I was lucky to be alive, let alone able to do the job that I love and be lucky enough to have a horse like this.

"It's been a long road with a lot of ups and downs along the way. The moment like this, it makes every bad day worth it.

"I feel like someone is going to wake me up and it's going to be one big dream. I've been thinking about this moment but thought it would never come off.

"I was lucky to survive my accident and now I'm lucky to win a gold medal, roll on the next rollercoaster in my life."

It's a world removed from the street kids shredding medals at Tokyo’s Urban Park and the blue-bloodied world of the Olympic equestrian centre but if there's one thing Great Britain's latest Olympic champions - on their bikes and horses - have in common, it's they're honed from tough stuff.

TOKYO 2020 - ‘THE FIRST TIME EVER!’ – CHARLOTTE WORTHINGTON CLAIMS GOLD WITH HISTORY-MAKING BACKFLIP IN BMX FREESTYLE
TOKYO 2020 - ‘THE FIRST TIME EVER!’ – CHARLOTTE WORTHINGTON CLAIMS GOLD WITH HISTORY-MAKING BACKFLIP IN BMX FREESTYLE

All three members of this team were making their Olympic debuts and while horses can be fickle, it's not beyond the realms of possibility that the same trio and their partners could be back in Paris.

McEwen - who also won silver in the individual event - rents his stables from Princess Anne and counts Zara Phillips, a team-mate and world champion, among his close friends.

"They deal with a lot more pressure than I ever would, they keep calm and relaxed at all points, so I followed in their steps," he said.

"To get the gold with a record score is phenomenal. In the last few years I've messed up in many a place where I probably shouldn't have done but he's been a very special partner.

"I loved the pressure this week, I've loved being in this team and we've had to perform. To get that team gold after 49 years is really something. We are new to this experience, we've all just embraced the pressure and we've got three amazing horses to work with."

TOKYO 2020 - 'DON'T GIVE UP' - BRYONY PAGE'S MESSAGES TO ATHLETES STRUGGLING WITH CONFIDENCE
TOKYO 2020 - 'DON'T GIVE UP' - BRYONY PAGE'S MESSAGES TO ATHLETES STRUGGLING WITH CONFIDENCE

The current strength in depth in British equestrian is the envy of the world, the Tokyo team selectors arguably had one of the hardest jobs in any in Team GB.

World No.1 Townend was always a lock for the plane but believes a rare alchemy for success has been discovered in Tokyo, which could lay the foundation for more success.

"From a team point of view, I've never been as happy or as comfortable," he said.

"We've got a rapport and chemistry as a team, it's really opened my eyes to what a team can achieve.

"When you are surrounded by this sort of horsepower, it makes your job an awful lot easier.

"We've joked all week that it's only three years to Paris - it's more than possible we could all get to Paris again with these horses."

Stream every unmissable moment of Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 live on discovery+, the Streaming Home of the Olympics.

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