Olympic Showjumping Gold For Ben Maher at Tokyo 2020

Ben Maher and Explosion W at Tokyo 2020's Individual Final Jump Off (FEI/Christophe Taniere)

Olympic Showjumping Gold For Ben Maher at Tokyo 2020

It’s an Olympic Showjumping gold for Ben Maher at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Following a super-speedy qualifying performance, Team GB’s Ben Maher, with ride, Explosion W, soared to gold medal position in the individual final today (4 August).

Ben and Explosion W were favourites to take the showjumping title as they arrived in Tokyo. However, with the unpredictable nature of the discipline, it was never a given the infamous pair would win!

Starting as they meant to go on, a speedy round in the qualifier put them last to go in the reverse merit running order. A nervous watch behind the scenes, and across the sliver screens for spectators, there were plenty of poles and time penalties between the pair and their impeccable round.

With team gold already under his wing from London 2012,  they cruised around the arena with zero faults and time to spare. One of just six combination to make the final, they were placed comfortably in fourth as they headed into the jump off.

However, with just two riders in before Ben, this was not a position he is used to in jump off’s.

I had a plan, but I don’t really remember it now to be honest!”
he laughed. “The team believed that, by being fastest qualifier yesterday, I’d be last in the jump-off today and it threw me off a little bit that that wasn’t the case. I wanted to go in there knowing exactly what I had to do but Peter Charles and Scott Brash were watching for me and they said ‘you’ve just got to go – do what you’ve done on him in the past’. As I was going through the gate, I knew I didn’t want to be that person who came fourth. I wasn’t going to leave anything on the table.”

However, the nerve did not show during the jump off. Ben rode the 12-year-old gelding with complete composure. Opening Explosion’s stride, the lightening-fast time almost looking leisurely! At this point, the duo led the field with 0.17 seconds in hand.

Sweden’s Henrick von Eckermann and Holland’s Maikel van der Vleuten, the final two riders, tried to rise to the challenge. However, they just weren’t able to match the British pair’s speed.

I’ve had so many people who I owe this to, in the end. Explosion’s the main one, but I have vets and farriers who’ve been with me for over ten years, there’s my team back home and Cormac Kenny – Explosion’s groom – who came to me from Ireland when he was 16 years old. He grew up with me and he’s a big part of this moment. My family, my fiancée Sophie who I’m marrying in two weeks time – I don’t know which was more pressure, this or getting married! There are so many people who’ve contributed to make this possible and hopefully we’ll get home and have a good celebration.”

Ultimately, though, today’s success comes down to the partnership between Ben and the incredible Explosion W – a horse who looks set to follow the likes of Milton and Big Star into the hearts of the British public.

I’ve had many good horses in my career, but I won’t ride another one like him again, and that’s a big statement,” said Ben. “He’s just such an intelligent horse, a fun horse to be around, and he’s a real athlete. He’s not a normal horse. All the nerves that I had coming from the hotel today and when I got here, I came in through the gate and they just went away. I jumped fence one and something just clicks, and he fills me with confidence. I’m just really enjoying riding him and hopefully it lasts a long time.”

Harry Charles and Scott Brash

Team GB‘s other two riders who made it through the qualifier were Harry Charles and Scott Brash.

Harry Charles was first in the ring for Team GB with ride, Romeo 88. Making his debut Olympic appearance at the age of just 22, the young rider had shown talent and skill beyond his years at the competition.

However, the individual didn’t go the pair’s way. After four fences down, Harry made the admirable decision to retire the 12-year-old gelding from competition.

Meanwhile, Scott Brash with Hello Jefferson were also riding in the Individual Final. A speedy round was just not speedy enough, as the clock turned red. The experienced pair missed the time by less than a second. Incurring one singular penalty, their quest for an individual Olympic medal was over.

However, the Team GB showjumping trio now have the Team competition to take on and another chance for medals.

The second horse inspection takes place at 01:00 BST tomorrow morning (5 August). The team competition gets underway on Friday 6 August.

For the full viewing schedule and how to watch the Olympic Showjumping, click here.

Header Image; Ben Maher and Explosion W at Tokyo 2020’s Individual Final Jump Off (FEI/Christophe Taniere)

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