NICK Skelton won Great Britain’s first individual showjumping gold medal in Olympic history following a stunning performance in Deodoro.
The 58-year-old, from Alcester, also became Britain’s second oldest Olympic gold medallist in any sport, behind shooter Joshua ‘Jerry’ Millner, who won gold in 1908.
Skelton and Big Star – his London 2012 team gold medal-winning ride – were among six combinations that jumped off against the clock after posting double clear rounds earlier in the day.
And Skelton, competing in his seventh Olympics, set a scorching pace of 42.82 seconds despite being first to go, that no other rider could match.
It means that Great Britain’s equestrian team finished their Rio campaign with two gold medals – Skelton and dressage star Charlotte Dujardin – plus
a silver for the dressage team.
Skelton beat Sweden’s Peder Fredricson into second place by more than half a second, with Canadian Eric Lamaze – the 2008 Olympic individual champion – finishing third.
And it represents a career highlight for a rider who has fought back from a broken neck suffered in 2000 that forced him to retire before he returned to the saddle in 2002.
He has also suffered a serious back injury and underwent a hip replacement, but he came back to prominence when he helped Britain win team gold alongside Ben Maher, Scott Brash and Peter Charles in London four years ago.
Skelton has now won 16 major championship medals – two Olympic, nine European and five world – but his crowning glory came in the glorious Brazilian sunshine as he battled to hold back the tears on the medal podium.
An elated Skelton said: “I would say today he (Big Star) was absolutely amazing. The last competition he won was the Aachen grand prix in 2013 – it has been two years to get him back.
“It has taken a lot of work, but I always knew if we could get him right, then he could do this.
“He is an absolutely amazing horse. He has all the right attributes and he is the best horse I am ever likely to have.
“We have been very slowly bringing him back. I have nursed him and nursed him, and he has come good for me – this is for him.
“That (jump-off) has been the biggest nerves of the Games for me. I didn’t want to look too much, but I had to look at Eric, because I knew he would be quick. I am not going to stop now. I only ride Big Star at the moment. When he stops, I will stop. For definite.
“I have been in the sport a long time. I am so happy – it was amazing.
“I was just emotional on the podium because I am so happy with what I’ve done. To do it now is unbelievable. It is pretty emotional for all concerned.
“I was first to go in the jump-off, and I thought in my mind to go as fast as I could, but be safe. He’s a quick horse anyway, and I had to be clear, because it adds a bit of pressure on everyone else. I needed luck on my side, and it was today.”