Olympic Gold Medalist Nick Skelton Awarded at Hickstead
Nick Skelton was presented with a special gift from Hickstead today in recognition of his extraordinarily successful showjumping career.
The 59-year-old, who announced his retirement from the sport earlier this year, was invited into the International Arena on the final day of the Longines Royal International Horse Show. During a special ceremony that took place before the Longines King George V Gold Cup, spectators were reminded of Nick’s many achievements within the sport – including his team gold medal at London 2012 and that unforgettable individual gold last summer in Rio.
He was presented with 12 crystal glasses engraved with the dates and winning horses from his four King’s Cup wins, three Hickstead Derby titles, three British Grand Prix victories and five FEI Nations Cup winning team appearances at Hickstead.
“We wanted to give Nick something to say a heartfelt thank you for all the many years of enjoyment he has given showjumping fans,” said Hickstead Director Lizzie Bunn. “Nick has been such a vital part of the British Showjumping team and we will really miss watching his skill and brilliance in the arena. Looking back over his record here at Hickstead, there can be few riders who[LB1] have or will ever match Nick’s achievements at the All England Jumping Course.”
When Skelton claimed individual gold at Rio, he became Britain’s first showjumping individual Olympic champion, as well as Team GB’s oldest gold medallist since Jerry Millner won in the shooting in 1908. Nick’s win at Rio 2016 marked an amazing comeback for a rider who had recovered from a broken neck some 16 years previously, and for a talented horse whose career had been punctuated by injury.
It had never been a secret that Nick planned to retire when Big Star did, and in April came the news that had long been on the horizon but that most hoped would remain some way into the future – Nick and his famous stallion were both calling it a day.
Nick is one of a famous trio to have won three Hickstead Derbies in succession, alongside fellow London 2012 team gold medallist Peter Charles, and his Rio teammate Michael Whitaker (Ireland’s Eddie Macken went one better than the others by winning the Derby four times in a row).
Skelton’s first of three Derby wins came in 1987, when he produced the only clear to win on namesake J Nick, before he had back-to-back wins in 1988 and 1989 with the white-faced Apollo. The pair came very close to equalling Macken’s record fourth win in 1990, only to lose out in a jump-off against Joe Turi and Vital.
By the time of his three Derby wins, Nick already had his name on the Longines King George V Gold Cup, winning in 1984 back when the class was held at Birmingham’s NEC. In 1993, its second year at Hickstead, Nick won the King’s Cup again on Limited Edition, securing the victory with the only first round clear.
Two more King George titles followed, with Nick winning in 1996 on Cathleen and in 1999 on Hopes Are High, the horse he just missed out on winning a team medal on that same year when the European Championships were last held at Hickstead. He came very close to lifting the King’s Cup a further two times when finishing runner up with the grey Russel in 2004 and 2005.
Nick was also part of the winning British team in the home leg of the FEI Nations Cup on several occasions, including consecutive victories in 1992 and 1993 on Limited Edition, and in 2003 on Arko III and 2004 with Russel. The latter wins came just a few years after Skelton broke his neck in two places in a riding fall and retired for a first time – only to return to the sport and go on to be so successful at the very highest levels.
“The memory that sticks in my mind the most is in 1981 when Hickstead had three shows each year and I won the Grands Prix at each of them, and then there was my three Hickstead Derby wins,” said Nick. “I have some great memories here, it’s a great showground.”
Looking back at Nick’s stellar record at Hickstead, it’s little wonder that he describes the showground as a ‘very lucky place for me over the years’. He’s been lucky here, and showjumping fans have been just as fortunate to witness some of his greatest moments in the International Arena.
Yuri Mansur’s Dream Week Ends With King George Win
Brazilian rider Yuri Mansur secured a remarkable triple of wins this week when claiming the honours in the €200,000 Longines King George V Gold Cup at Hickstead.
The victory came just two days after Yuri was part of the winning team in Friday’s FEI Nations Cup™ leg. Both wins came courtesy of the 11-year-old mare Babylotte. Today Yuri and his horse were on phenomenal form, producing the only double clear round of the competition to lift the historic trophy.
There were 46 starters in today’s King George, which forms the finale to the CSIO5* Longines Royal International Horse Show. Course designer Kelvin Bywater set a long, difficult track with 12 fences and 16 jumping efforts, and only four managed to jump clear in round one.
British hopes lay with Keith Shore, who was first to go in the jump-off. He set the pace with a time of 57.63sec on Mystic Hurricane, but one fence down left the door open for his three rivals to go ahead.
Germany’s Patrick Stühlmeyer on Lacan 2 finished on eight faults to finish an eventual fourth, while the Netherlands’ Ruben Romp (Audi’s Teavanta II C Z) also knocked one fence down, but shaved more than three seconds off Keith’s time to take the lead.
Mansur was last to go in the jump-off, and he was able to concentrate on netting a clear round – which he duly did, in a time of 57.52sec.
“For me it was an amazing experience – this mare, I just have no words for her,” said an overwhelmed Yuri. “When I bought her she was jumping in 1.45m classes and hated to jump on grass, but since then she’s more than proven herself.”
“My strategy today was to go the same speed as Ruben, but after I made the turn to fence seven, then I said to myself I have to stay clear, and that’s what I did. It’s a dream for me, I can’t believe it.”
It’s been a superb week for Yuri. As well as his win in the FEI Nations Cup of Great Britain, presented by Longines, the 37-year-old Holland-based rider also won the first international class of the show, the Bunn Leisure Vase.
Third placed Keith Shore was philosophical after coming close to being the first British winner of the Longines King George V Gold Cup since Ben Maher in 2010.
“I don’t really think he should have had a fence down to be honest, but that’s horses and they do. It was only last night I knew I was going to jump in the class so to come third is very good,” he said.
Earlier this morning, Robert Whitaker rode out the winner of the Royal International Accumulator. Riding the eight-year-old stallion Noble Warrior, Robert produced a blisteringly quick time of 43.13sec. Second placed Jur Vrieling (Zypern III) was just two-hundredths of a second in arrears in what was the closest speed class of the week. France’s Benoit Cernin was third (43.26sec), with Robert’s father John Whitaker fourth in a time of 44.29sec.
“He’s always jumped well but the last couple of months he’s really stepped up,” said Robert. “Today he’s shown how good he is.”
Today was the final day of competition at the Longines Royal International Horse Show, and the final day of the international showjumping season at Hickstead.
This Thursday (3 August) will see hundreds of horses and ponies return to the All England Jumping Course for the annual Hurstpierpoint College National Schools and Pony Club Jumping Championships, which has finals for Junior Schools, Senior Schools and branches of the Pony Club.