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Showjumping legend John Whitaker confirmed he has no plans to retire as he collected the British Equestrian Writers’ Association (BEWA) lifetime achievement award in front of a home crowd at the London International Horse Show.
The 67-year-old, who has been competing at the top of the sport for nearly five decades, was presented with the award as a surprise in the main arena at the ExCeL on Saturday (17 December).
John, who has won more than 20 Olympic, World and European medals during his lengthy career, received the accolade from incoming BEWA chairman Rupert Bell.
He said he was “a bit taken aback” to have been surprised with the award.
“I got tricked, nobody told me!” said John, who was joined in the ring by family and friends including including Stanny Van Paesschen, Marcus Ehning, Nick Skelton, Di Lampard, his son Robert Whitaker, and two of his granddaughters.
“It was very nice, it’s nice to be appreciated – as long as you don’t think I’m going to start thinking about retiring yet! I’m not retiring.
“We love coming to this show, it’s an unbelievable atmosphere just before Christmas.”
On being as competitive as ever, he added: “I can still beat them on my day, and I’m making all the young ones work for it. It’s a nice feeling. I don’t really have anything to prove, but I still want to go in there and be competitive.”
As well as the legendary Milton – the first horse to win £1m prize money in showjumping and with whom John was crowned European champion in 1989 – Whitaker’s stable stars have included greats such as Ryan’s Son, Gammon, Argento, Peppermill, Hopscotch, Welham, Grannusch and Calvaro Z to name a few.
His CV also boasts victory at two World Cup finals, the King George V Gold Cup in 1986, 1990 and 1997, and the Hickstead Derby on four occasions, as well as countless other major classes and grands prix.
Britain’s reigning eventing and dressage world champions, Yasmin Ingham and Lottie Fry, were also honoured for their achievements with BEWA awards, facilitated by show organisers rEvolution and HPower.
At a drinks reception on Friday (16 December), Yasmin, 25, who won gold in Pratoni with Sue Davies and Janette Chinn’s 11-year-old gelding Banzai Du Loir, was presented with the BEWA personality of the year trophy by Rupert, and BEWA treasurer Lynne Reed.
Lottie, 26, was the winner of the moment of the year for her gold medal-winning freestyle performance with the Van Olst Horses’ 11-year-old stallion Glamourdale at the World Dressage Championships in Herning. Lottie’s father, Simon Fry, collected the award on his daughter’s behalf. Hours later, Lottie and Glamourdale set a new personal best of 90.99% in the World Cup freestyle at the show.
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