Great Britain’s Ben Maher and his partner Explosion W have earned their place in Wednesday’s Olympic showjumping individual final at the Tokyo Games after jumping a brilliant and fast clear round in Tuesday’s individual qualifier.
The British combination came to the Tokyo Olympics as one of the hot favourites for a medal. They gave supporters plenty to cheer about after delivering one of the best rounds of the day to join the 30 riders who have qualified for Wednesday’s individual final for the Olympic showjumping medals.
However, it is only thanks to undergoing a back operation in January of last year that he has made it here at all.
“I feel like a new person!” said Ben after his round on Tuesday.
“I struggled for a long time after a couple of falls and in 2018 and 2019 and I had to have a physio travelling with me – I couldn’t even walk very well,” explained Ben. “Actually on a horse, I was doing OK and I felt more comfortable, but life wasn’t much fun so it was planned six months in advance that I’d have lower back surgery in London. I was nervous for a while that me feeling more healthy would make me worse than the ring. But I was in the gym a week after the operation and I was back in the saddle about nine weeks later. I rode literally two classes and then COVID came so last year was a write off for me. So I’m just happy to be here.”
Talking about his round in the Olympic showjumping individual qualifier with the 12-year-old Chacco Blue gelding Explosion W, who is owned by Charlotte Rossetter and Pamela Wright, Ben said: “He was great. We’ve been waiting here a long time like everybody else – it’s been very boring and I was just kind of edgy to get going.
“It’s tough for the course-builder, but it was a fair course,” he said. “It suited Explosion – the course is relatively big but all the distances were a bit open and I did one less stride to the last fence where a lot of people were doing the six and that helped me to be a bit quicker. He grows in confidence when I ride with a bit of speed – I have to trust his quality and ride with that pace, so it was a good course.”
Ben described the new format, with the Olympic showjumping individual medals being decided before the team medals are competed for later in the week, as “difficult”.
“You didn’t want to miss qualifying today – if you’re slow or have one down and then you’re sat there waiting until horse number 75 on the edge to get in. So I made the decision to go in and attack a bit. I just went a little bit wider to the sumo wrestling jump as a few horses were doing some strange things there. But he felt great, and it fills me with confidence today. But these weeks can throw up big surprises – so I’m confident, but I also just go in there and try and do my job on the day.”
You may also be interested to read…
Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.