TOKYO, Aug. 4, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Individual gold for wedding-bell-bound Ben by Louise Parkes
«I don’t know what was more pressure, this or getting married in two weeks!», said Great Britain’s Ben Maher as he clutched the Individual Jumping gold medal he just won at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Baji Koen tonight.
«It doesn’t seem real. I think it will sink in tonight or tomorrow when I wake up,» said the 38-year-old athlete.
With the 12-year-old Explosion W he was already leading the posse after yesterday’s qualifying competition, so he had the best of the draw when last to go in tonight’s first round. And having made the cut into the six-horse jump-off he simply out-ran all the rest, Sweden’s Peder Fredricson having to settle for silver with All In at their second Olympic Games in a row, while The Netherlands’ Maikel van der Vleuten and Beauville Z took the bronze.
Course designer, Spain’s Santiago Varela, outdid himself once again with a first-round track that tested courage, scope and speed, and six of the 30 starters, including a staggering three from Sweden, qualified for the jump-off.
IOC President Thomas Bach was one of a number of IOC dignitaries onsite at the Equestrian Park tonight, and was very happy to watch the jump-off from the athletes’ tribune.
All six jumped clear again, and when pathfinder Daisuke Fukushima crossed the line with Chanyon in 43.76 seconds to set the first target it was a huge moment for the sport in Japan. Sweden’s Malin Baryard-Johnsson was next to go with her feisty mare, Indiana, who broke the beam three seconds quicker but then compatriot Peder Fredricson raised the bar to a whole new level with a beautifully-executed run that saw him race across the line with All In in 38.02 seconds.
All eyes were on Maher who was next to go. The four-time Olympian who won team gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games is a formidable competitor, and with Explosion W is in a class of his own. He knew the expectations were high but he handled it with grim determination and his brilliant 12-year-old gelding got him home in 37.85 seconds which never looked possible to beat.
Last of the Swedes, Henrik von Eckermann gave it his best shot with King Edward who stopped the clock in 39.71 seconds. That seemed plenty good enough for bronze, but Dutchman Maikel van der Vleuten set off with his jaw set square and steered Beauville Z home in 38.90 seconds to squeeze him off the podium.
Maher’s gold is Great Britain’s fifth equestrian medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, and only the second Individual gold his country has claimed since Jumping joined the Olympic Games in 1900. Compatriot Nick Skelton was the first to win Individual gold for Great Britain when reigning supreme five years ago in Brazil.
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