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A London 2012 gold medallist in the team event, the seven-time Olympian went clear on Big Star in both opening rounds and did so again as the first out in a six-way jump-off for the medals. Skelton’s time of 42.82 would not be bettered, as he secured his first ever medal in the event and also became the oldest Olympic champion in any equestrian event.
Sweden’s Peder Fredricson, on All In, was the only other rider to jump clear in the battle for the medals, but had to settle for silver after failing to dip under the British show jumper’s time. It was the second silver of the Swede’s career, the first having come in the jumping team event at Athens 2004.
The final rider to go out was 2008 gold medallist Eric Lamaze of Canada on Fine Lady 5. Though he sped his way round the course, the Canadian knocked a rail over to finish in third. Missing out on the jump-off altogether was London 2012 defending champion Steve Guerdat of Switzerland, who had one rail down.
Savouring the moment after winning only the second Olympic medal of his career, Skelton said: “I waited a long time. I felt like he (Big Star) was hard done by in London (where he missed out on an individual medal). I am so pleased with this horse. He won his last big competition at the grand prix in Aachen in 2013. There were several problems and he took a long road back.
“It was hard to go first and I knew I had to be fast to put some pressure on the others. Peder was fast but not fast enough,” added the Briton, who then explained the secret of his success: “Just keep going. As long as you have a good horse you are all right.”
“My horse jumped well,” said the Swedish runner-up afterwards. “He did not have one fence down during the whole competition. I had hoped for a medal and I stuck to my plan. It was a great week.”
Describing his emotion at winning a bronze to go with his Athens gold, Lamaze said: “It feels incredible. It was a lot of work. First with the jump-off for the team medal that we missed out on, and then me leading all the way. The second round today was massive.”