2012 has sped by — working on the H&H newsdesk in an Olympic year has been an unforgettable experience. And as I’ve had so many highlights I’ve attempted to limit it to two (and a half) bite-sized chunks.
The build-up was intense — we all dreaded the commute and the long hours, but were buoyed by the prospect of medals. The Games flew by in a blur of gold medals, late night shifts and excitement. As it turned out London’s public transport network was remarkably quiet and the hours were fine [well, as fine as they can be when all the lights go out in the office at midnight and you're there til 3am].
The overall highlight of the year for me was being at Greenwich when the British showjumpers won gold. Showjumping editor Jennifer Donald and I headed off to Greenwich prepared for all weathers [bin liners as makeshift waterproofs, suncream “just in case”] and armed with Union flags — plus Jen’s homemade spreadsheet to keep ahead of the complicated scoring system.
The atmosphere was amazing and the London backdrop spectacular. But I never imagined we’d see the team step up onto the podium [or leap on early in excitement in Nick Skelton’s case] to receive their gold medals. It was overwhelming and didn’t sink in as we jumped and screamed from our seats.
Once Jennifer had been interviewed by various radio shows [fame!] we went out for a “quiet drink” to celebrate. We sipped champagne . . . and tried a gold medal on for size. A fuzzy head the next day has never felt so good.
The Frankel factor
Aside from the Olympics, another highlight of this year for me has been getting the chance to see so many top racehorses in action. I’ve always been a National Hunt girl at heart, but during the past couple of seasons I’ve really developed an interest in the Flat — aided in no small measure by the magnificent Frankel. Seeing him bow out undefeated at Ascot in October was a true privilege. Again, the atmosphere was buzzing — this time Union flags were replaced by “Go Frankel” paddles. The scrum to get to the paddock was immense, everyone wanting to glance at the “celebrity” in the ring.
And in the National Hunt sphere it’s had to be Big Buck’s — a mighty, handsome beast who makes everything look so effortless. Seeing him win at Cheltenham, Aintree and most recently at Newbury — his 18th consecutive win — he’s just a pleasure to watch. I can’t understand those who say he’s “boring”. What more do they want?
In this job you meet a lot of people, many of whom you’ve admired for many years. Some live up to expectations, some you wish you’d not met after all — just so that your perception of them remained in tact. One that didn’t disappoint was Jilly Cooper.
After speaking to her many times on the phone, I plucked up the courage to introduce myself when I saw her at Cheltenham races in November. She is a delightful, charming lady who was funny and interested in everything everyone had to say. And of course introduced us to the “handsomest trainer in England” [Richard Phillips apparently, in case you were wondering].
Horse & Hound celebrates an incredible 12 months for the equestrian world in our 2012 Review of the Year magazine (6 December, 2012). Grab your copy from your local stockist or buy a digital issue online now.