Britain’s hopes of an Olympic individual show jumping medal disappeared in the final phase of the competition as Nick Skelton had three fences down on the Hales’ fantastic stallion, Arko III.
The horse that prompted Nick’s return to the saddle following his forced retirement from international show jumping after he broke his neck in 2000, had jumped superbly in phase A of the final to produce one of only two clear rounds.
The other belonged to Ireland’s Jessica Kuerten on Castle Forbes Maike.
Unfortunately neither of the leading riders were able to reproduce their form in the all-important phase B, with both dropping right out of the medals at this late stage.
The challenging final course of the Olympic equestrian events in Athens produced only two clear rounds. A technical combination of two uprights on a short one-stride distance, followed by a long stride to a huge square oxer proved too much for many horses, including Robert Smith’s Mr Springfield, who was unable to make the distance to the final element.
A four fault performance in round one, followed by a fanastic clear in phase B saw Ireland’s 24-year-old Cian O’Connor and Waterford Crystal take the gold medal.
Brazil’s former world champion Rodrigo Pessoa took the silver medal in a jump off for the final two medals against United States’ Chris Kappler. Both riders had finished on eight faults after the two rounds of the final.
Chris Kappler’s ride Royal Kaliber had been jumping a great round over the extremely challenging jump-off track when he pecked on landing after the double of uprights and pulled up lame with a damaged tendon, forcing Kappler’s retirement and handing silver to the Brazilian.
Robert Smith finished an impressive equal fifth individually after collecting just four faults in phase B, while Nick Skelton dropped to equal 11th, just one fault behind Robert, with a total of 13 penalties.