JUST three days after becoming Team GB’s first ever individual showjumping gold medallist, and second oldest gold medallist in any sport, ever, in Rio, Nick Skelton was back to life in Warwickshire.
At 58, only one Team GB athlete has ever won an Olympic title when older, way back in 1908 when 61-year-old Joshua Miller won shooting gold.
But Skelton did not hang around in Rio to soak up the carnival atmosphere of the Closing Ceremony, and he is now settling into life as a pin-up for the elder generation.
“I had to get back, I had other things to do – back to work,” said the show jumper.
“The reaction has been amazing. I’ve had so many messages, letters and cards from the elder generation, saying how inspiring it was to watch and that they’re going to get up and do something now.
“It’s amazing. I’m glad it’s helped somebody.
“Since I got back I’ve had a lot of publicity and wherever I’ve been people are stopping me, it’s been great.”
Skelton, riding Big Star, was part of the Team GB quartet that won team showjumping gold at London 2012 and he returned on the same horse to win his second gold medal, in Rio.
And with the horse not having jumped at the top level for almost three years, since winning the Aachen Grand Prix, in 2013, Skelton admitted he took a little while to get back up to speed over the Olympic fences.
But he came good when Skelton really needed him, jumping clear in the six-way jump-off and winning gold by virtue of having the fastest time.
“I exceeded my expectations, or certainly fulfilled them anyway,” added the rider.
“It’s great when a plan comes together, it’s been three or four years to get to Rio and get it done, but I couldn’t have done it without Big Star.
“He’s a phenomenal horse and I had every faith in that horse, that we could do it, pull it off.
“Where you live at an Olympics, in the house, with all the other athletes and staff from Team GB, you hear about what they are doing and then it comes around to your time and you think ‘God I hope I don’t let them down’, because they contribute so much to get you there.
“So it’s nice to help them out and not let them down.”
Skelton’s gold added to Charlotte Dujardin’s individual dressage success, and made it eight equestrian medals for Team GB at the last two Olympic Games – five of which have been gold.
And he hopes that continued success will lead to an increase in participation in equestrian sports.
“Now, with a lot of funding from the Lottery, towards the equestrian things, then that helps – even down to the grass route levels,” added Skelton.
“When people, kids, see you winning something like this, they think they want to do that, so it inspires them.”
The multi-award winning Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (from September 1-4) has been established as a major international equestrian and social event in the Autumn Sporting Calendar for over 50 years. For more information visit burghley-horse.co.uk