Piggy March on missing the Tokyo Olympics: ‘It’s been grim – as an athlete, it’s all you want to do’

  • Piggy March has opened up in a vlog about missing the Tokyo Olympics, after yesterday’s announcement that she and Brookfield Inocent, who belongs to John and Chloe Perry and Alison Swinburn, will not be travelling to Japan as British alternates.

    “It’s been a really, really difficult month for myself and team,” she said. “It’s been a difficult year – a difficult last two years really with everything going on – and all the main ones [events] being cancelled, but the Olympics still going ahead has obviously been everybody’s focus for the last four years, but the last year in particular. And we’ve all been very excited and it’s been a massive hype and it’s been the only thing that we’ve been focusing on.

    “And we obviously got very close, but not quite close enough, as [I was] selected as number four, which has just been a very difficult position for my owners, my team in general, getting your heads around it and actually really thinking what you want to do, what’s the best for your horse.”

    Piggy said that if she had been selected as one of the three-man team, she and Brookfield Inocent would undoubtedly be heading to Tokyo.

    “It’s been a very difficult decision, all this, for my owners over the last year – in the first place not actually being that excited for Tokyo, with everything that’s going on in the world, the uncertainty, all the rest of it, but with everything else getting cancelled for my owners, they thought that yes, they would be very happy to go with Brookfield Inocent, if he was a horse that would be used to go out there.

    “If we were selected in the three, we would be going, without doubt, to go and fight for your country and get that once in a lifetime dream, that we’ve all dreamed of all our lifetime as the competition we always want to do.”

    Piggy said that she “without doubt” wants to go to the Olympics.

    “Even being a reserve and being part of a team, supporting your team… You never know what happens, you might get your chance, ”she said, while stressing that she wouldn’t wish a late withdrawal on of her team-mates, having been in that position when she missed London 2012 due to horse injury.

    Piggy went on to explain that Brookfield Innocent might not be the right horse for the alternate spot, with their most likely contribution being to showjump if something happens to a team member on the cross-country.

    “He’s a real three-day horse. He likes to be used, he always jumps so much better if he’s been busy before and had the cross-country before… You might still be jumping for a medal of some sort and it’s not a position that suits him. And so, we have decided not to take the travelling reserve spot, and to save him for something that we can all enjoy and [where his owners can] go and watch him.

    “This is really difficult for me. It’s just as difficult for my owners and I know they feel that for me they would love me to go out there and they’ve said it plenty of times, but they’ve also been very strong on their views of not going out there. They can’t all come and watch. Their involvement with event horses is the entire journey, to be where their horses go, to go and watch, support.

    “We’re lucky enough hopefully to still have a European Championships. My owners have never had a horse represent Great Britain or had a horse at that level. There is no way really you could travel a horse to Tokyo – whether he runs or he doesn’t run – to go through all that, to be in those conditions, and to come home and prepare a month later, for a European Championships. They just feel it is too much for him, it’s all too quick, which I would agree with. And so the decision is to save him and try somewhere else later in the year.”

    ‘I am totally behind my owners’

    Piggy said she is “totally behind” her owners and understands the decision.

    “It is a massive ordeal for potentially a horse to go out there and do nothing – it’s just such a shame the whole format happens like this,” she said, questioning why the alternates couldn’t run as individuals.

    She added that John and Chloe Perry and Alison Swinburn are “brilliant owners”, who are “so supportive”.

    Piggy stressed that she is not criticising the selection decisions and that her replacement, the reigning world champions Ros Canter and Allstar B, is very strong – “in some ways I was lucky to be ahead of her in the call-up”.

    Piggy also apologised in the video to anyone who she has “cried at or glared at”, explaining the short time frame in finding out she was the alternate has been tough.

    “In some ways that would be my only thing that I would have wished slightly different is probably a little bit of communication or a little bit more time to have just sorted out an order or to have known, because it’s been so hard for me personally to find out so late that you’re number four, to then be straightaway in Windsor the next day [performing the Olympic test as an exhibition], the press, the public.

    “I feel like a miserable cow half the time because so many people have come up to me and said, ‘Oh, congratulations, you must be so excited to go to the Olympics and we’ll be watching you, I’m rooting for you.’ It’s like, ‘Oh God, I’m probably not even going  and if I was going, I’m on the sideline.’ It’s all been so up in the air and so hard, to be honest, genuinely, to sit there and look people back and say, ‘Thank you.’”

    Piggy is also honest about how tough it has been for her to miss out and her feelings of failure at not being selected into the team: “On a personal note, I have cried a lot, I’ve banged my head against the wall. It’s been fairly grim, to be honest because on a personal note as an athlete, it’s all you want to do. You try everything you can do, and you feel somewhere along the lines, you let your horse down or have done something at some point to have missed out.”

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    Piggy finished up the vlog by talking about her son Max and his role in cheering her up and about her win in the Retraining of Racehorses class at Barbury with Our Old Fella.

    “Whatever level you’re at, whether you’re at the very top, or whether you’re down at a bottom level, horses can bring us very good days, or a sense of achievement and with that little horse I did feel that, how he’s come on and how he performed that day was a sense of achievement. It’s very easy at times when things get really low, we lose a bit of confidence. We all can.

    “When we have hard decisions to make, or not quite feel we performed well enough and it’s still those good little days or those good little moments where you feel you’ve done the best you can for a horse and you just get a little glimpse of that was really cool. And that was a moment.”

    Piggy concluded: “Onwards and upwards, it’s life, it’s horses, the ups and downs, the heartbreak, blood, sweat and tears and all the rest of it. Like I say, hopefully I don’t have too many more wrinkles, and I can keep the fire for a few years, and keep going.

    “Thank you for everyone’s support, thank you for people who had such good wishes towards us and it’s kick on for the next things.”

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