Horse eventing horse eventing olympic dating

"Lovely", "delightful", "sweet" and "serene" are some of the adjectives tossed at me when I tell my horsey friends who it is that I am going to interview. In 1995, when overcoming a challenging cross-country course in Italy to win European team gold, there was not only fire in her belly but also her daughter Emily.

But luminosity and loveliness do not win Olympic medals, any more than sweetness and serenity overcome a broken neck to regain a place at the summit of a sport. Secretly, King was five months pregnant, and when word got out, there was predictable disapproval.

Also, we finished early so I stayed out there, and saw a lot of boxing, diving and athletics, and Sally Gunnell winning gold, which was wonderful." In Atlanta four years later she experienced some, though not all, of the searing heat she can expect these next few days in Hong Kong, where a minimum temperature of 90F and 90 per cent humidity have been predicted. "I did think two or three years ago, is it me just being greedy [wanting to go to Hong Kong], and not thinking about the horses' welfare.

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The opportunity to ride Call Again Cavalier came five years ago when his rider, Caroline Pratt, was killed at Burghley. I was a bit short of top horsepower at the time and I knew he was a special horse.

Did she consider it unlucky to assume the mount of a dead rider? A lot of riders were dying to get their hands on that horse." I scan her face but there is no sign that she has realised the unfortunate choice of words. I felt so honoured." King's attitude towards life-threatening injury is either explained, or made inexplicable, I am not sure which, by the fact that her late father was invalided out of the Royal Navy shortly before she was born, having suffered a head injury in a motorcycle accident on his way home from playing squash for the Navy.

He operated, advising King not to ride again for eight weeks, and not to fall off again for 10.

She remains remarkably sanguine not only about her own brush with mortality but also about the pitfalls of a sport far more dangerous than Formula One.

Not surprisingly, she has her mother's all-encompassing passion for the sport. When King broke her neck in 2001, no atom of her being wanted to give up riding. Because there are three different disciplines [show-jumping, dressage and cross-country] it's a bit like being a triathlete, but what makes it unique is that men and women compete on equal terms. "A pheasant shot up out of a hedge, the horse shot sideways, and I went a bit crooked in the saddle. He took advantage of the situation, bronked, and I fell very badly.

"It's a high-risk sport but that's what makes it so exciting," she says, her eyes shining. I could waggle everything, so I thought 'Good, no paralysis', but I couldn't get up.

Challenging that modesty outright, I ask her where her five Olympic Games place her in the pantheon of British eventers? Yet her most memorable Olympics will always be Barcelona in 1992.

"It was my first, an absolute dream come true, and even though the results weren't great, team sixth and individual ninth, the experience was every bit as good as I had imagined.

"This sport is very much about experience," she says. At Badminton, for instance, there are 90 horses and riders, and it is there for the younger riders to win, but always at the end of the three-day event it is the same names in the top 10; William Fox-Pitt, Andrew Nicholson, Pippa Funnell [she delicately omits herself, though she has won twice at Badminton].

They are the people with the split-second reactions you need to make sure the horse jumps well." Age has neither dulled her reactions nor diminished her nerve.

Whatever, at 47 she is not only one of British sport's more determined achievers, but also one of its great survivors.

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