Andrew Nicholson: Living the Swiss Olympic dream


  • Andrew Nicholson, multiple Olympic team medallist and Burghley and Badminton winner, reflects on Barbury as well as sharing his thoughts on going to the Olympics as cross-country coach to the Swiss eventing team, plus his predictions on who will win the medals in Tokyo

    I WAS very pleased to win three classes at Barbury Horse Trials – the CCI4*-S with Swallow Springs and two novice sections with a pair of six-year-olds, Erin and El Platanito. It’s a beautiful venue, and I can’t imagine there’s a better place to watch cross-country.

    I also had three working pupils competing there, as well as my daughter Lily and another rider who is based with me and, as I could see everything they were doing, there was no hiding place for them!

    All the horses, from novice to four-star, showjumped in the main arena, which gave them experience of a proper arena with plenty of atmosphere.

    I thought the novice cross-country track was a good education for them and, while the three-star walked a touch on the soft side, they still had to deal with the terrain and the horses were tiring as they finished, which is what the riders at the levels below the top need to feel and therefore learn how to deal with.

    It still feels like a prestigious event and an important place at which to win. But I am surprised that such an event is allowed to offer such poor prize money – £600 to the CCI4*-S winner.

    A new role

    IN my role as cross-country coach to the Swiss team, I went to Luhmühlen, where the Olympic shortlisted riders ran in the CCI4*-S as a selection trial. The courses there were good and got a result.

    Well done to Mollie Summerland for winning the CCI5* by leading from start to finish in the old style – without an entire army of “performance team” support. She enlisted the help of the journalist Tilly Berendt and off they set. Good for them for pulling it off.

    I then went to Avenches – where the European Eventing Championships are taking place in September – where a couple of short-listed riders with two horses were running the horse they hadn’t taken to Luhmühlen.

    I’m very proud of them and I’m looking forward to going to Tokyo with them. They are a good bunch, as are the people helping train them. Their dressage coach is Ernst Wettstein – and Bettina Hoy has helped as well – and the former top showjumper Lesley McNaught has come on board for the showjumping. We’re living the dream at the moment; long may it continue!

    It will certainly be different going to the Olympic Games as a coach rather than a rider. It’s interesting, though. Event riders are a really close-knit bunch; unlike other sports, we can get on very well with each other yet still be very competitive, and it’s the same thing with coaches and chefs d’equipes. We want to win, but we will also help each other when at all possible.

    Tokyo predictions

    WHO’S going to win the Tokyo medals? I think the Brits will beat the Germans for team gold – and I think there could be a couple of the British riders in the individual medals as well.

    On one hand, I’d like to see Michi Jung win his third individual gold in a row. That would be quite something, and I’ve always watched him and admired what he does. On the other, I’m a good mate of Oliver Townend’s – he deserves one of the medals and is good enough to get it. In fact, all of the British are good enough to get a medal.

    The three-to-a-team, all scores to count Olympic eventing format is going to make it a very exciting team competition, and the riders will come under enormous pressure. I can see it being very different in feel to the days when I was doing it. Having five in a team, as they did in London and Rio, was wrong – why shouldn’t all the scores count? We’ll see how that affects how everyone plays it.


    Andrew’s exclusive column will also be available to read in H&H magazine, on sale Thursday 22 July

    • Who are you cheering on in Tokyo? How will the new format play out? Write to hhletters@futurenet.com to let us know your thoughts and you could be in with the chance of winning a bottle of Champagne Taittinger

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