GB showjumpers’ bid for Tokyo glory spearheaded by two Olympic gold medallists

Great Britain’s showjumpers will be led by two Olympians who have been there and done it when they go for gold at the Tokyo Games.

Scott Brash and Ben Maher were part of the triumphant London 2012 quartet alongside Nick Skelton and Peter Charles that ended a 60-year wait for Britain to be crowned Olympic team champions.

Both riders have remained dominant performers at showjumping’s elite level, each winning two overall Global Champions Tour crowns, while Maher is currently ranked fourth in the world and Brash sixth.

London Olympic Games – Day 10
Great Britain’s London 2012 gold medal-winning team (left to right): Nick Skelton, Ben Maher, Scott Brash and Peter Charles (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Brash, who has landed more than £3.6million in GCT career prize-money alone, also became showjumping’s first – and only – rider to complete the £735,000 Rolex Grand Slam when he claimed successive grand prix victories at Aachen, Geneva and Spruce Meadows six years ago.

And their presence alongside team-mate Holly Smith – Britain’s first female showjumping team member at an Olympics since 1976 – in Tokyo means hopes of individual and team success are strong.

Brash will ride Hello Jefferson, while Maher is aboard the brilliant Explosion W, a combination that enjoyed grand prix success at Valkenswaard, Paris and Windsor during recent months.

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“The Olympics is the pinnacle of every sportsperson’s career,” Sussex-based Scotsman Brash told the PA news agency.

“It is something we are all trying to be picked for, and it is what we have been thinking about the last few months.

“London was an incredible experience. OK, I don’t know if it is going to be quite the same atmosphere as London, but an Olympic Games is something very special.

“It has been amazing to have crowds back in the sport again and to feel a bit of atmosphere. The best horses thrive under a bit of an atmosphere, and I think it also brings the best out of the riders.”

Former British showjumping team boss Rob Hoekstra described Brash as having “ice in his veins” when he anchored team gold medal success at the 2013 European Championships in Denmark.

And with so little currently separating the sport’s global stars on any given day, Brash knows mental strength will be vital in Tokyo.

“I like it when the pressure is immense, really,” he added. “I think it can bring out the best in you.

“You have got to be a strong character in this sport. There are so many ups and downs.

“You can be on such a high one day, and the very next day you could fall off a horse jumping one metre-high.

The Royal Windsor Horse Show – Wednesday June 30th
Charlotte Dujardin will defend the Olympic individual dressage title in Tokyo (Steve Parsons/PA)

“Horses aren’t machines. It’s not a racing car that we are driving, and you cannot just click your fingers.”

A powerful British equestrian team should also challenge for medals in dressage and eventing.

Double Olympic individual dressage champion Charlotte Dujardin defends her title on new ride Gio following the retirement of London and Rio winner Valegro, and team medal hopes alongside Carl Hester, who competes in his sixth Games, and debutant Charlotte Fry are also promising.

World number one Oliver Townend leads British eventing’s bid for a first team title at an Olympics since 1972, while he also has a strong individual chance, along with colleagues Tom McEwen and Laura Collett.