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Team GB strike gold and silver in Olympic eventing competition

·5-min read
<span>Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

Great Britain’s eventing team won gold in a dominant performance at Tokyo Equestrian Park before Tom McEwen added individual silver on Monday evening. The victory marks Team GB’s 11th gold medal of the 2020 Games, in an event which they had not won since 1972.

Andrew Hoy, 62, led the Australian trio to team silver ahead of France, who won the competition in Rio in 2016. Having first competed at the Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984, Hoy then added an individual bronze medal, taking his all-time medal tally to six, and becoming Australia’s oldest Olympic medallist in the process. Germany’s Julia Krajewski became the first woman to win the individual Olympic gold medal.

The British trio of Oliver Townend, Laura Collett and McEwen had gone into Monday’s final round in a commanding lead, with Oliver Townend jumping last by dint of his then lead in the individual standings. He ultimately missed out on an individual medal after incurring penalty points in each of his remaining two rounds. Nevertheless he had said he expected there to be a big celebration after the team gold, “and I don’t think it’ll be with a cup of tea and a biscuit”.

Speaking to the BBC after winning gold, Collett recalled the dramatic accident she had in competition eight years ago, which resulted in multiple fractures, a punctured lung, spinal injuries, losing some of the sight in one eye, and being left in a coma for six days. She said: “Just to be here was more than a dream come true. It hasn’t sunk in. And I look back and I think where I was eight years ago. I knew I was lucky to even just be alive, let alone be able to come and do the job that I love, and be lucky enough to have a horse like London 52 to bring me to a place like Tokyo.”

First to jump in the team competition round on Monday was 30-year-old McEwen on Toledo De Kerser, who went clear. Collett on London 52 took one fence down on her run, picking up four faults, but she rallied to go clear for the rest of her course. Riding Ballaghmor Class, Townend was the last of all the riders to go, with a four-fence cushion, provided he incurred no time penalties. In the end he took down one fence, to secure Britain’s victory.

Team GB ended up on 86.30 penalty points, well clear of Australia on 100.20 and France on 101.50, but Townend confessed that he didn’t actually know how much he had in hand in the day’s first run, saying: “I put myself under a bit of pressure, but that’s normal, but these two guys have made it very easy for me, jumping such amazing rounds.”

McEwen added: “We’ve put in many many hours, from children to where we are now, and it’s all paying off, all the work we’ve put in. It’s not really hit me yet, it’s been a super special experience. To get the gold with a record score has been phenomenal.

“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 special.”

Tom McEwen, Laura Collett and Oliver Townend pose with their gold medals.
Tom McEwen, Laura Collett and Oliver Townend pose with their gold medals. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

The team run had tantalising set up the possibility that all three Britons might secure an individual medal, but in the end only McEwen could do so. Collett put down two fences to pick up eight faults and put her out of contention. The 39-year-old Townend, who is based in Shropshire, incurred four faults and a time penalty and missed out having started the final round in silver-medal position. Instead, it was McEwen who earned his silver with a clear round, picking up just 0.4 of a time penalty. Townend finished fifth, with Collett ninth. All three were making their Olympic debuts.

The gold for Team GB comes after years of tantalising near misses. Although they did not win a medal in Rio, British riders had won eventing team silver at the Olympics in Los Angeles, Seoul, Sydney, Athens and London, and bronze in Beijing. The 1972 team whose achievement they have emulated included Richard Meade, Mary Gordon-Watson, Bridget Parker and Mark Phillips, who would go on to marry Princess Anne the following year.

Australia&#x002019;s Andrew Hoy rides in the ring after receiving his bronze medal.
Australia’s Andrew Hoy rides in the ring after receiving his bronze medal. Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/AFP/Getty Images

Asked about his achievement becoming Australia’s oldest medallist, Hoy said: “It is very, very special. We don’t come to these championships, especially Olympic Games, to finish in fourth, fifth or sixth. We only come to get a medal and look, it’s been a complete team effort.”

The eventing competition takes place across three days, consisting of a dressage test, a cross-country round, and a jumping round. At the 2016 Olympics in Rio British riders took two golds in the equestrian sports, with Charlotte Dujardin on Valegro winning the individual dressage, and Nick Skelton on Big Star in the individual show-jumping. At these games they have already doubled that haul, with Monday’s gold and silver adding to the bronzes for Dujardin and the team in the dressage competition.

Townend showered the whole class of 2020 with praise, saying “They are such brilliant riders. I’m surrounded by class horses and very classy people.”

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