‘He comes out, digs in and fights so hard’: Harry Charles on his Olympic showjumping individual qualifier round

  • Harry Charles and Romeo 88 have enjoyed a sensational start to their Olympic showjumping individual debut at the Tokyo Games.

    Jumping first of the British riders in the individual qualifier today, Harry pulled off a confident and forward clear round on the 12-year-old gelding, owned by Harry and Ann Thompson.

    “It felt amazing,” he said. “I was so focused, by the time I knew it I was at fence 11! I just kind of got into the flow and I loved it. I’ve only had Romeo 88 for seven months so it’s a pretty new partnership. His owner Ann came today; I met her for the first time at this Olympics. She’s having a great time and we’re delighted with him.

    “He’s a horse of amazing calibre – I’ve never really had one like him. I’m so excited for him for the future because we’re still new and getting to know each other. He’s a grumpy fellow in the stables, but he comes out, digs in and he fights so hard. That’s what makes him a great horse.”

    Harry walked the course with his Olympian father Peter Charles.

    “It’s quite a tricky course; it has a lot of colours and the lights are playing a big factor. There’s so many options with the distances so I went to watch a few, made a good plan and stuck to it and it worked out pretty well,” said Harry.

    “We saw the course has been causing a few problems, especially at fence one and 10. Fence 10 has a sumo wrestler – and some of the horses don’t love it! That was one fence to really keep them alive. At fence one I started a lot quicker than I would usually, I rode it as if it was four or five on the course, a bit more up tempo.

    “I added a stride into the triple combination (fence four), the two strides is very short. It caused a lot of problems early on. Then I just opened him up and enjoyed it.”

    Harry and Romeo 88 had been Britain’s alternate combination, but a team announcement yesterday confirmed the 22-year-old rider would start today – instead of Holly Smith and Denver.

    Harry confirmed he and the team had known for “several weeks” that he would ride and the decision was made when they were in quarantine.

    “I don’t know why it was only announced yesterday, it sent people into a bit of a frenzy on social media,” he said. “That’s the plan and so far it’s worked out. Holly will step in on Friday [for the team qualifier] and take the reins.”

    Harry has been taking advice from his team mates Holly, Ben Maher and Scott Brash.

    “Scott has been one of the riders I’ve really looked up to all my life. Even when I started jumping at the top level a couple years ago, he was always one I could go to for a bit of advice,” he said.

    “To have those guys [there to help], it’s been fantastic. It’s been great for my first time. I couldn’t have asked for a better start so hopefully that’s me into the individual final. To get to the individual final at my first Olympics this year is more than I could have hoped for.”

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