Inspirational Skelton bags incredible third place at BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards - The Coventry Observer

18th Aug, 2022

Inspirational Skelton bags incredible third place at BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards

WHEN reflecting on 2016 as a year, many people may look back on a particular goal they achieved, a fear overcame or barrier that was broken.

But brave horseman Nick Skelton had a particularly exceptional year, rounded up on Sunday night as he took third place in the prestigious BBC Sports Personality of the Year award held at the Genting Arena in Birmingham.

Date back 16 years ago and you’d mistake Skelton for being a man victim of his own success.

His fall in September 2000 left the now 58-year-old in an awful state, he broke his neck after landing on his head following a horrendous fall.

Just a year later, the Bedworth-born star was forced to retire prematurely – ending a potentially prolonged career.

But Skelton being Skelton, he decided to take to the saddle once more – and in 2002 he won a Grand Prix round in Portugal aboard the popular Arko, who provided the equestrian star with ten further wins over a six year period.

Only Dollar Girl proved a horse capable of equalling the success of Arko, recording ten wins for Skelton between 1993 and 1996.

But it wasn’t any of these horses that made Skelton a household name, it was Big Star.

Described as an intelligent horse, Nick had already won two Grand Prix events and a Global Champions Tour GP on the 16-year-old stallion prior to the Olympic Games in Rio – a final chance for Skelton to secure an individual gold medal.

In nail-biting fashion, Skelton and Big Star were forced into a jump-off – which the pair managed to win.

In doing so, the Alcester resident became the oldest British Olympic Gold Medallist since 1908 and the first man to finish in the top three of the BBC award since Paddy McMahon in 1973.

Speaking prior to receiving his award, the veteran horseman said: “I was running out of time, but luckily it all went right.

“When you have a horse like Big Star it makes the job easier and I’m very proud to have served my country for 40 years doing what I do.

“Though I won team gold in London, Rio was more special.

“I’d like to thank everyone who helped me along the way, particularly those who brought lottery tickets.

“Team GB’s medal haul wouldn’t be as good without the support from the National Lottery.”

Son Dan Skelton, who’s experiencing success of his own in the horse racing industry, said his dad is a natural in the saddle.

He added: “He just gets on the horse and rides it.

“I thought my dad was indestructible, but the reality is the majority of people who suffer from the injury he did die.

“I didn’t think for a minute that he wouldn’t ride again, we’re all horsemen in the family and that’s all we do.

“He gets one chance every four years, and this was his big chance – and he did it.”

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