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Reigning Olympic champion showjumping combination Nick Skelton and Big Star are to both officially retire from the sport next month.
The pair’s official farewell will be at the Royal Windsor Horse Show on Sunday, May 14.
Skelton said he had decided to retire from competition after “months of thought and consideration”.
Skelton’s show jumping career has spanned four decades and includes seven Olympic Games and 20 championship medals. Since his first international championship in 1973, Skelton has consistently remained at the top of his game with the ultimate highlight being his most recent success at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, where he secured an Individual Gold Medal with Big Star, owned by Gary and Beverley Widdowson.
Big Star has been partnered by Skelton since he was bought as a five-year-old. Big Star has helped Skelton to win two Olympic Gold Medals, numerous major Grand Prix titles and consistently delivered clear rounds for Great Britain in Nations Cup competitions. The 14-year-old stallion will be officially retired on the Sunday of Royal Windsor Horse Show in the Castle Arena in front of HM The Queen.
“Although there are many people, including my family, Gary and Beverley and my team that were looking forward to us carrying on this year, we feel that Big Star has done everything that a rider could ask and it is time for him to relax and enjoy his stallion duties,” Skelton said.
“As for myself, I have always stated that when Big Star was finished I would be as well. This sport has given me more than I could have ever hoped over the past 43 years and it is such a difficult decision to make, but I’m not getting any younger and it is nice for the two of us to end on the highest note possible.
“Thank you to all of the incredible friends and fans for your support, we are truly appreciative and humbled. Thank you to all of my owners and sponsors throughout my career, I couldn’t have done it without you. And lastly, thank you to all of the horses I’ve ridden, you have provided me with opportunities one could never have imagined.”
Skelton has also been credited with one of the greatest comebacks of all time after a fall in 2000 left him with serious injuries, including a broken neck, and forced him into early retirement. But Skelton defied the odds to recover and made a courageous decision to start competing again. Skelton’s story captured the hearts of those who witnessed his victory at the Olympics, with the tear-jerking gold medal podium moment voted one of the highlights of the Games. The British public showed their support and respect for Skelton’s achievement by voting for him to take third place in the 2016 BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
Skelton also holds the British equestrian high jump record, when he jumped 7’7” (2.32m) on Lastic at Olympia in London back in 1978.
“Nick Skelton is not only a legend of equestrian sport but of the whole sporting world,” said Royal Windsor Horse Show Show Director Simon Brooks-Ward. “What he has achieved in his career is remarkable and we are honoured he has chosen Royal Windsor Horse Show as the place to officially retire along with Big Star.
“We are delighted that our ticket holders will have the opportunity to be there for this special occasion and we will make sure that both Nick Skelton and Big Star get the send-off they truly deserve.”
In the below video, Mark Beever, Nick’s groom, pays tribute to Nick Skelton and Big Star.