The British Equestrian Federation (BEF) has confirmed the five riders making up the British eventing team for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Mary King, William Fox-Pitt, Piggy French, Zara Phillips and Tina Cook have been formally nominated to the British Olympic Association (BOA). The nominations must now be reviewed and ratified by the BOA before the athletes are officially selected for Team GB.
Between the five selected riders the eventing team contains a wealth of experience. This will be Mary King’s sixth Olympic Games; William Fox-Pitt’s fourth and Kristina Cook’s second.
Kristina Cook, William Fox-Pitt and Mary King were all members of the GB eventing squad that won team bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, where Kristina also scooped the individual bronze on Miner’s Frolic. The same trio were then part of the team that won gold at the 2010 World Championships, where William Fox-Pitt took an individual silver medal.
Although Zara Phillips and Georgina (Piggy) French will make their Olympic debuts in London 2012, they have both represented their country at the highest level. Zara was crowned individual World Champion in 2006 but missed out on the 2008 Olympics when her horse Toytown suffered an injury prior to competition. She is now back at the top of the sport with High Kingdom, a horse that she has brought up the ranks from novice level.
Georgina French won individual silver at the 2009 European Championships and was also part of the 2011 European Championship team that won bronze alongside team mates Fox-Pitt and King. Piggy also won the Olympic Test event in Greenwich in 2011.
“It’s been a challenging spring with a number of events cancelled and great credit is due to all the riders who have had to reflect this in their plans," said Equestrian Team Leader Will Connell. "It has also been a challenging time for selectors. The team we have now nominated to the BOA is crammed full of athletes that have proven medal winning ability at European, World and Olympic level.
"I offer my congratulations to them, their support teams and their horse’s owners and look forward to working with them during the final push to the London Olympics.”
Kristina Cook - (41) from Worthing, West Sussex riding Miners Frolic, owned by Mrs Sarah Pelham, Mr Nicholas & Mrs Valda Embirico
“I’m totally thrilled," said Tina. "After the horse’s illness last year this is a dream come true. With his past form Miner’s Frolic has proved he can do it but he nearly died of colitis 12 months ago so to come back to this level shows he’s a real fighter - that’s what pulled him through. He’s gone really well this season so I’m very excited to get the opportunity to take him to London.
"I’ve had him since he was four years old, he’s kind and talented and we have a great partnership. Greenwich will be challenging but he’s a well bred horse, fast cross country but adjustable and polite which is important for those hills.”
William Fox-Pitt (43) from Sturminster Newton, Dorset riding Lionheart, owned by Mr Jeremy & Mrs Judith Skinner
“It’s a great honour and a privilege to be selected for the British team," William commented. "It’s particularly exciting as its London and I can’t wait for the Games to get started and experience the London Olympics. It’s very exciting to be part of such a strong team and I’m particularly delighted for my long-time owners Judy and Jeremy Skinner.
"Lionheart is a phenomenal horse and an incredible athlete with a great temperament and he’ll be able to cope with Greenwich perfectly. I’m really looking forward to riding there; he’s only a ten year old but a very generous and talented horse. In my opinion he’s made for Greenwich.”
Georgina [Piggy] French (31) from Lubenham, Leicestershire riding Jakata owned by Mr Wally French & Mr Michael Underwood or DHI Topper W, owned by Mr Wally French & Mr Michael Underwood
“I am overly excited and very relieved," said Piggy. "It is what my team and I have been working towards over the last few years so it’s excellent to be getting this far; we just have to hope and pray that they stay in one piece to get there.
"I have to say a massive thank you to my owners for their support; I wouldn’t have got to this stage without them. Obviously I am confident that ‘Topper’ will cope with the going there because of our experience at the test event but they are both amazing horses with different strengths. We will make a decision nearer the time based on who is feeling on the best form nearer the Games.”
Mary King (51) from Sidmouth, Devon riding Imperial Cavalier, owned by Mrs Janette Chinn and Mr Edwin & Mrs Sue Davies
“It is such an honour to be selected to represent GB at what will, all being well, be my sixth Olympic Games. It is a very strong team and I hope that they are the ones to help me complete my set of all three colours of medals," said Mary.
"I am so pleased that ‘Archie’ will get the chance to compete at an Olympic Games, he so deserves this opportunity and I am sure he will rise to the occasion! He is a big powerful horse which means he should be able to cope well with the undulations.”
Zara Phillips (31) from Stroud, Gloucestershire riding High Kingdom, owned by Gleadhill House Stud Ltd
“It’s awesome to be given this opportunity, I’m really excited and can’t wait to kick on and get him there - hopefully we will make it this time after you know what happened last [time]," said Zara.
"High Kingdom is a pretty cool, very relaxed kind of guy, I was really happy with him at Bramham as he’d obviously grown up and is improving all the time. He’s pretty pony like, a nippy little jumper and easy to manoeuvre so hopefully it will suit him well in Greenwich. High Kingdom is owned by Trevor Hemmings who’s been one of my earliest supporters – he’s owned a lot of my horses and has been so supportive, I couldn’t do it without him.”
A formal announcement of the eventing team is expected later this week. Reserve horses and riders will be named in due course.