In the event, I mostly just felt relief. I heard the British riders say that a lot and in my small way, I knew what they meant. The intense competition for selection this year, starting as favourites after a smooth build-up, leading from the front, going into the final day with a massive margin after their brilliant cross-country performances – there could be no excuses if it didn’t come off.
We couldn’t say, “This is an amazing result for young horses” (like the bronze medal-winning British dressage riders) or “We’re fielding two reserves” (like the bronze medal-winning French eventers). And, although no medal should ever be sniffed at, in reality nothing but gold would be good enough this time.
Thank goodness it came off.
The schedule for the eventing final day was fairly brutal for journalists with an ever-hungry website, a weekly magazine and a daily podcast to service. I ended up being awake for over 27 hours straight from getting up at 6am for the final trot-up through to finishing writing and reading magazine pages at 9.30am the next day.
After four hours sleep, it was out again for the showjumping yesterday evening.
An hour or so into the session, I was hearing Ashlee Bond’s incredible story, seeing her swing from the wild joy of a clear to crying as she talked about her late grandmother and what it means to her to ride for Israel.
I felt my own eyes fill with tears. What on earth was going on? This wasn’t the sort of thing that normally made me cry.
Today, we went to the Main Press Centre to do a few chores such as picking up transport cards (we can go on public transport now we’ve been here 14 days) and buying merchandise (if you’re at an Olympics, you need branded stuff, right?).
We popped into the Team GB office to say hi – the team there were very helpful and supportive with info and briefings during the difficult build-up to this Games, and it’s been nice to put faces (or half faces, in masks) to email addresses since arriving.
There is a big whiteboard in the office with lists of all the British medallists so far. Looking at it, finding our riders’ names, I felt emotional again – and rather proud. I’ve reported on Tom McEwen since he was at the Pony Club Championships, Laura Collett’s first three-day event win was my first three-day as a reporter, Oliver Townend was one of the first people I ever interviewed for a full feature. These are our people, who we speak to and follow week in week out, over years and decades, contributing to a wider Team GB effort, with their names up beside the likes of Tom Daley, Adam Peaty, Max Whitlock and Laura Kenny.
I feel like maybe the Olympic emotions that should have been front and centre on Monday evening have been delayed – frozen by exhaustion and the effort of getting through the work that followed the eventing competition. Now, who knows? If Ben Maher – or one of the other Brits – wins tonight, I may weep unreservedly in the mixed zone.
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