After passing on his individual Olympic crown to fellow Brit Ben Maher, Nick Skelton slams the new Olympic format after seeing the showjumping action first-hand in Tokyo while supporting his partner, US rider Laura Kraut
The team jump-off was fantastic. My partner Laura Kraut went first for the USA and Henrik von Eckermann couldn’t catch her time, then Malin Baryard-Johnsson was quick and Jessie Springsteen couldn’t beat her, so it was left to McLain Ward versus Peder and the latter’s flyer to the last just clinched it for the Swedish. When a team jumps 16 clears from 18 rounds at an Olympic Games, you have to say they richly deserved to win.
The equestrian venue was second to none – the stables were air-conditioned with rubber flooring throughout, there was a gallop track, lots of arenas and the ground was excellent. It was such a pity not to have spectators in such a huge stadium, but there are so many extra people involved in our sport that the atmosphere was buzzing throughout.
However, the new format was a disaster and the FEI needs to be held responsible for that – no onus for the scenes we saw in Tokyo should be placed on the riders.
I know Shane Sweetnam received a lot of flack on social media for his round, but he was absolutely not at fault – he was only put in that position by the new rules. We could all see what was going to happen after the second jump and it was uncomfortable to watch, but he had to get round or his country lost all chance. On TV that did not look good.
Luckily the horse is going to be OK, but he should never have been put under that kind of pressure. There needs to be a clear rule about ringing the bell in that situation and perhaps there should by a professional rider in the judges’ box helping to make that call.