Everyone loves an individual Olympic medallist, but others made an indelible mark at London 2012, too. While we eagerly await the stories that will arise from Rio, Paula Lester and Catherine Austen remember some of the eventers who won our hearts with their skill, flamboyance and courage in London
Italy’s Vittoria Panizzon and Borough Pennyz
After Michael Jung, this perfectly suited pair came closest to finishing on their dressage score, adding just one time-fault in the second, individual showjumping phase. Super-fit and super-nippy, the Gloucestershire-based rider and her then nine-year-old mare, bred and owned by Sally Bullen, jumped impeccably. If their dressage warm-up had gone to plan, they would have finished higher than 11th.
Belgium’s Karin Donckers and Gazelle De La Brasserie
Karin Donckers retired her consistent and long-serving 18-year-old Swiss warmblood mare after finishing 15th — the best of the Belgians — at London 2012. Their harmonious dressage tests scored highly for years — seventh here and second in the 2008 Games — and they were good showjumpers, with just one down in each round at Greenwich. But time-penalties across country once again caught them out.
Italy’s Stefano Brecciaroli and Apollo VD Wendi Kurt Hoeve
This horse’s stunning test, scoring 38.5, left them second after dressage. Could they follow up on this start and take a medal home to Italy? Sadly not. Stefano set off across country like a man possessed but they picked up time-penalties. Stefano was resigned to dropping down the order, explaining with affection: “My horse is very special, but he cannot gallop for 10 minutes. I respect him and do not want to push him. We took the direct routes and did as much as we could.”
Thailand’s Nina Ligon and Butts Leon
The first Asian woman to ride in the Olympic eventing was only 20 years old. We waited with bated breath to see if Nina would finish her first Games. She did. Although down the pack in 41st, she impressed onlookers with her quiet riding.
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New Zealand’s Andrew Nicholson and Nereo
Fourth is the worst place to finish — so near, yet so far. Andrew was furious to have his dressage preparation interrupted by the judges halting the competition for 10min during an electrical storm. An effortless cross-country round and one fence down in the two showjumping rounds couldn’t make up the deficit.