Piggy French is out of the London Olympics because her ride DHI Topper W (pictured) is injured.
Topper had his final pre-Games run on Saturday, finishing third in the CIC** at the St James’ Place Barbury International Horse Trials, but Piggy’s father and the horse’s co-owner Wally French confirmed to H&H today that the 12-year-old has sustained an injury and will not compete at Greenwich.
Piggy was initially named for the British team with a choice of two rides, Topper and Jakata, but she has suffered the terrible luck of both her horses going wrong in quick succession because Jakata was ruled out due to injury two weeks ago.
“What can I say, I am devastated,” said Piggy. “My dreams are shattered, but most of all I feel so sorry for my support team that have been such a vital part of my success and also for my family and joint owners, the Underwoods. I wish the team all the best for the Games and look forward to being back on the team in the future.”
Piggy has been replaced on the team by Nicola Wilson riding Rosemary Search’s home-bred Opposition Buzz, who many were surprised did not make the cut originally.
“It’s horrific and fabulous at the same time; I just don’t know what to say,” commented Nicola. “I’m devastated for Piggy and wouldn’t wish this on anybody, she’s become a very close friend and I feel for her so much.
“What an emotional rollercoaster, obviously I’m so excited for Rosemary, myself and my support team but so saddened at the same time for it to be at the expense of such a good friend. To be thinking about London now is amazing though – having very much told myself it wouldn’t happen. We’ll definitely be ready.”
The pair have been the pathfinders for the British team at the past three championships, winning team gold at the 2009 Europeans and the 2010 World Equestrian Games, as well as team bronze at last year’s Europeans and recording a counting score on every occasion.
This will be Nicola’s Olympic debut.
Opposition Buzz finished seventh in the CIC*** at Barbury on his dressage score of 53.6.
Eventing performance manager Yogi Breisner said: “I feel extremely sorry for Piggy and it is a real shame not to be able to have her on the team. I am sure a rider of Piggy’s talent, and with the backing she has, she will be back on future teams. It is great to have a reserve of the calibre of Nicola Wilson and Opposition Buzz to bring on to the team, and preparations will continue as planned.”
Equestrian team leader Will Connell added: “Piggy will be completely devastated and all of us feel so very sorry for her, her support team and her owners. Piggy is a truly outstanding athlete, a wonderful team member and one of life’s good human beings. However, horses have a habit of giving great highs but also terrible lows.
“We aim to always select as early as possible (many nations have not yet selected) and one of the knock on effects of this is that there is a longer period between selection and the championships and thus a longer period of time in which horses can encounter a problem. The horses have to be fit, especially for the terrain we will encounter at Greenwich and they cannot be wrapped in cotton wool.
“Whilst we feel for Piggy we must look forward and we now welcome Nicola Wilson and Opposition Buzz. What a wonderful combination joins the team; Nicola and Opposition Buzz have been the pathfinders for the team at the past three championships and have an enviable championship record.”
In the past 10 years, the British have only twice not had to call a reserve into their senior championship squad between selection and the event.
Reserves have sometimes gone on to excel, for example when Tina Cook finished best of the Brits and took the individual bronze at the last Olympics. Piggy herself was called up from the reserve bench at the 2009 Europeans and went home with individual silver.
Full report of Barbury in H&H this Thursday (5 July). Read about more late call-up success stories in our feature on great Olympic surprises in 12 July issue of H&H.