‘If it was fantasy football, we could sell our players to other teams’ – Tom McEwen on the Olympics

  • If you were having a lesson with a potential Olympian when they received a phone call about selection, would you expect them to take it? Tom McEwen showed remarkable willpower in not picking up when British performance manager Dickie Waygood called about the Paris Olympics while he was teaching.

    ­“We knew the day he was going to call and I remember thinking, ‘Should I take this?’ I had a couple of lessons to go so I actually called him back later in the evening, but I did feel sorry for whoever was having those lessons as my brain probably wasn’t fully with it,” he admits.

    “My first reaction was that I am super privileged to be on the team,” says Tom, who was a team gold and individual silver medallist in Tokyo in 2021 riding Toledo De Kerser.

    “We spoke about it a lot three years ago and it’s happened again that there is super strong depth of rider and horses for Britain, so unbelievable competition. If it was fantasy football, we could sell our players to other teams! It’s possibly been harder this time, because there have been options of where to compete this spring and it’s been left to us so we had to make up our minds. At least in Covid times, it was either Aston-le-Walls and Bicton Horse Trials or Kentucky Three-Day Event – those were the only options. This time, we’ve all taken our own paths.”

    Tom took his ride JL Dublin, owned by Jo and James Lambert and Deirdre Johnston, to Kentucky, finishing second, and then to Luhmühlen Horse Trials CCI4*-S, where again they were runners-up.

    “Dubs” won’t compete again before Paris, with Tom saying he is at his best if he runs six or seven weeks before a big event, but Tom will carry on competing other horses.

    “I have a yard full of amazing horses, so I’ll be at Aston-le-Walls this weekend, then Upton House, then Aston again. We get used to continuously running and I think for me sometimes it’s hard to keep my eye on the ball when I’ve got a big show on, so being in that competitive spirit is really helpful,” he says.

    Tom McEwen on the Paris Olympics: ‘The more pressure, the better I am’

    Tom and Dubs are both athletes who rise to the big occasion.

    The rider says: “Horses like him are better when they feel they’re being watched – when they think it’s exciting you get something special from them. They want to raise their game and show off. For me too, the more pressure, the better I am, the more focus I put on it. Everyone has worked so hard – my groom Adam Short, all the guys at the yard, the owners – and to be able to show off on the top stage is amazing.

    “Knowing you’re off to another Olympics definitely starts getting you in the zone. Mental preparation is vitally important – making sure you’re ripe and ready in the best frame of mind to be competing. For me it’s about training, getting the boxes ticked, getting Dubs going as well as he can go.”

    Tom McEwen says having team training for the Paris Olympics at the British Showjumping National Training Centre in Leicestershire, where the British team had their final camp before Tokyo, has made him think about his experience at the last Olympics and what he learnt from it.

    “Last time we had to travel to the other side of the world and we had a lot of time to get used to everything, while this is quicker,” says Tom, reflecting on the fact that the British eventers will travel to Paris on Monday 22, July, with the first trot-up on Friday, 26 July.

    “I do think for the Olympics, the experience of having been to one Games already is super helpful. It’s knowing you have the weight of your country on you and the Olympics reaches a wider audience than you can ever imagine. We have our big shows – Badminton Horse Trials and Burghley Horse Trials seem to reach a large amount of people, but the Olympics touches a lot more people and having experience of that is going to help.

    “Most of all you have to stick to your plan and routine. It’s easy to be overawed by everything, but the horses and riders have got there on merit and we all know what’s going on.”

    And finally, does Tom have any superstitions when he’s competing?

    “I always put my right boot on first, but I do that every single day and it’s just become a habit,” he says.

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