August 14, 2008

British reserve showjumper Nick Skelton will be hoping to emulate eventer Tina Cook and win a medal when he takes his place on his country's Olympic team at the last minute.

Skelton joins the jumping team with the grey stallion Russel, by virtue of the fact that Michael Whitaker's Portofino 63 is lame and British Olympic Equestrian Team decided to withdraw the 14-year-old before the horse inspection at 8am HKT today.

Nick Skelton and Russel.
Portofino was sound on arrival in Hong Kong but a problem has come up in the past two days.

The team veterinarian has carried out an extensive investigation but as yet has been unable to target the source of the problem.

Skelton now joins John Whitaker and Peppermill, Tim Stockdale and Corlato, and Ben Maher and Rolette on the team. The jumping starts tomorrow.

Eventer Tina Cook won bronze in the individual three-day-event earlier in the week. She was a reserve but made the team, along with Sharon Hunt, after injuries to the horses of Zara Philips and Lucy Wiegersma.

Two members of the British team are making their Olympic debut - 25-year-old Maher from Hertfordshire is the youngest member of an Olympic show jumping team for some years. He rides the 10-year-old bay mare Rolette. Ben and Rolette have had many successes on the International stage over the past twelve months, including wins in the Mechelen and Maastricht Grand Prix.

Stockdale, 44, from Roade in Northampton will also make his Olympic debut, for which he has worked for many years. Tim will ride the 11-year-old grey mare Corlato, who made a remarkable recovery from a serious fall in Lisbon two years ago to become a key player in the British Team in recent months.

It will be the fifth Olympic Games for John Whitaker, 54, from West Yorkshire, and he also claims the title of the oldest member of Team GB competing at this year's Games. John partnered the famous Ryan's Son to an Olympic Team silver medal in Los Angeles in 1984. This year John will ride the 11-year-old bay stallion, Peppermill. Together John and Pepermill were the linchpin of the British Team who secured not only the Bronze medal at last year's European Championships in Mannheim, Britain's first show jumping medal for nine years, but also Great Britain's place in the Hong Kong Games this summer.

Skelton, 51, from Warwickshire, has ridden at four Olympic Games prior to Hong Kong, and rides the 13-year-old Russel, a holsteiner stallion by Corofino. In 2001 Nick broke his neck in a horrific riding accident and was advised not to ride again. However, defying all the odds he returned to the saddle in 2002 and rode Arko III into tenth place at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.