My highlight of 2012? Settling down to watch Question Of Sport last Saturday.
Yes, you heard it here first — I sacrificed a wild night out (I use the term loosely — I’m not as young as I once was) to watch a sport-based quiz programme on TV.
So why on earth was this the highlight of my year? (They don’t even include the “What happened next…” round anymore, I discovered.)
Very simply, because of what it signified. Nick Skelton — who was surprisingly knowledgeable on his sporting trivia, bag him for your next pub quiz — took his seat next to Phil Tufnell and, for the next half hour, prime time TV featured showjumping.
And this wasn’t a one-off. Since a certain day back in August when “our boys” won a momentous, unexpected and glorious Olympic gold, they’ve filled the airwaves, news pages and websites. Lorraine Kelly, Alan Titchmarsh — even the Queen — have been clamouring to invite our Olympic showjumpers on to their celebrity-filled sofas.
Yes, ladies and gentleman, showjumping is back and it’s bigger, better and — dare I say it, thanks to Scott Brash and his mission to “pull more birds” — sexier than ever.
We won gold! Yes, I still can’t quite believe it either — I frequently have to refer back to H&H’s bumper Olympic issues just to check it really happened. If you’d told me as 2012 dawned that Great Britain’s showjumpers would win a medal, let alone be crowned Olympic gold medallists for the first time in 60 years, I would have fallen off my chair.
Gold? In London? Get out of here.
I, along with H&H news writer Amy Mathieson, was hugely fortunate to get my hands on what turned out to be a pair of golden tickets to the team final. As the afternoon unfolded and a Netherlands v Team GB jump-off ensued, we unleashed our full patriotic pride — perhaps to the dismay of the Dutch family sitting in front of us.
I will never forget the mighty roar as Peter Charles cleared that final fence. All the pictures of him punching the air in the following day’s papers were news to me — all I could see for the next 10min was a sea of Union Flags. We all hugged — friends, strangers, rivals — and shed plenty of tears as Ben, Nick, Scott and Peter took to the podium. What a moment.
Of course, there was plenty to celebrate that night but, through a Champagne-induced fuzz the next morning, the sight of all the press coverage was a better tonic than a pint of Alka-Seltzer. Showjumping was everywhere and the whole nation celebrated — this was unprecedented.
So let’s keep this golden wave rolling. A bit more live showjumping on TV? Yes, please.
And, if Lord Coe has any spare gold medals kicking around, please can Bob Ellis receive one? He received universal praise for his courses and even non-horsey folk took interest in his thoughtfully themed and intricate fences. Those jousting knights for the individual final? Genius. We all wished we had a set to have fun with at home — except, maybe that pesky Penny Black fence.
2012 has set a benchmark and will be a tough act to follow. But I shall remember it with a golden glow. Now, am I the only one wondering what to do with piles of union flags and bunting in my house? Roll on Rio.
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.