Nick Skelton and Robert Smith have been selected to represent Great Britain in the individual show jumping competition at the Olympics with the Hales-owned Arko III and Jimmy McCloskey and Robert Smiths own Mr Springfield.
The two individual show jumping places for Britain were secured earlier this year by Robert Smith (pictured right) and Michael Whitaker. However, the places did not automatically go to those riders who had clinched them: selectors had to choose two British combinations to go to Athens from a short-list of 10.
Both Nick Skelton and Robert Smith have made their mark this season in the Samsung Super League Nations Cup events, which have been treated as Olympic viewing trials, as well as finishing in first and second place at the British Open Championships in Sheffield in April.
Derek Ricketts, Olympic show jumping team manager said: Both combinations have performed consistently throughout the trials and I am sure they will give a good account of themselves in Athens this year.
British show jumping was unlucky not to field a team for these Olympic Games but we have selected two top internationals to fly the flag for us, he added.
This is Robert Smiths first proper call-up to the Olympic side, although he has been short-listed and even selected as a non-travelling reserve in the past. These days a full flush of top-class horses and a consistent and determined approach to competitive life has taken him to the top of the British show jumping rankings, and his international performances have gone from strength to strength.
Nick Skelton (pictured right) was forced to watch the Sydney Olympics in 2000 through gritted teeth in a neck brace. He broke his neck in a fall just weeks before the games, retiring officially from competitive riding the following year. But following specialist advice, Nick returned to the saddle in 2002, and has shone in the international arena ever since.
The news will come as a serious disappointment to Michael Whitaker, who had appeared to have bounced back to form this weekend with a double clear on Portofino in the Nations Cup at Rotterdam.
Not only did he secure one of the Athens places, but he was the only British rider to qualify for the World Cup in Milan earlier this year. As world No. 7, he is the only British rider in the world top ten and he has headed the British rankings this year with Robert Smith – the two have been regularly swapping places in the top two spots.
This is the first time since 1988 that there will be no member of the Whitaker contingent flying the British flag at the games. John and Michael first competed together at the Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984, where they won a silver medal for Great Britain, and they have seemed like a permanent fixture of the team since 1992.
Olympic show jumping riders and horses
Nick Skelton – Arko III (owned by Mr & Mrs J. & Miss L. Hales)
Robert Smith – Mr Springfield (Mr J McCloskey & Mr R Smith)