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Olympic champion Skelton calls time on showjumping career

British Showjumpiong announced that 59-year-old Skelton and his Rio Olympics gold medal-winning ride Big Star would formally retire next month.

Olympic champion Skelton calls time on showjumping career

Reigning Olympic individual showjumping champion Nick Skelton is to retire from the sport.

British Showjumpiong announced that 59-year-old Skelton and his Rio Olympics gold medal-winning ride Big Star would formally retire at the Royal Windsor Horse Show on May 14.

Skelton won Olympic gold last August, while four years earlier at the London Olympics he helped Great Britain to team gold alongside Scott Brash, Ben Maher and Peter Charles.

Apart from two Olympic golds, Skelton also won a World Championship silver medal and four bronzes, plus three European golds, three silver and three bronze.

He was a mainstay of British Nations Cup teams, and won grands prix all over the world.

But it was aboard the brilliant stallion Big Star that he enjoyed his greatest triumph, delivering a showjumping masterclass in Rio last summer to achieve the prize that he always wanted.

In a statement released by BS, Warwickshire-based Skelton said: “It has come to a point, after months of thought and consideration, that myself and my partner Big Star have decided to retire from competition.

“Although there are many people, including my family, Gary and Beverley (Big Star’s owners Gary and Beverley Widdowson) and my team that were looking forward to us carrying on this year, we feel that Big Star has done everything that a rider could ask and it is time for him to relax and enjoy his stallion duties.

Great Britain's Nick Skelton with his Olympic gold medal in Rio (Owen Humphreys/PA)
Great Britain’s Nick Skelton with his Olympic gold medal in Rio (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“As for myself, I have always stated that when Big Star was finished I would be as well.

“This sport has given me more than I could have ever hoped over the past 43 years, and it is such a difficult decision to make.

“But I am not getting any younger, and it is nice for the two of us to end on the highest note possible.

Nick Skelton and Big Star after winning Olympic gold (Owen Humphreys/PA)
Nick Skelton and Big Star after winning Olympic gold (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“Thank you to all of the incredible friends and fans for your support – we are truly appreciative and humbled.

“Thank you to all of my owners and sponsors throughout my career, I couldn’t have done it without you. And lastly, thank you to all of the horses I’ve ridden, you have provided me with opportunities one could never have imagined.”

BS said that the double retirement will take place on the final day of this year’s Windsor Show, Sunday, May 14, in the Castle Arena.

Skelton’s achievement in Rio was recognised with a third-place finish at the Sports Personality of the Year awards in December behind winner Andy Murray and runner-up Alistair Brownlee.

His initial post-Rio target had been to concentrate on targeting the lucrative Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumpimg, but he will now bow out of the sport at the top, going down in history as arguably Britain’s greatest showjumper.