Sat, 16 Jul 2016
BRIMPTON dressage rider Spencer Wilton admitted he cried tears of joy after learning of his call-up for the Olympic Games in Rio.
Wilton was driving along the M4 on his way to the stables in Hare Hatch, near Maidenhead, when he received a phone call telling him that he had made the four-strong dressage team on his horse Super Nova II.
He said: “I have never cried with joy in my life, but I was in the fast lane on the M4 when I got the call and all of a sudden I couldn’t see properly!
“I had to pull over into the inside lane to get myself organised.
“I am delighted to be selected and there are lots of emotions.
“It has been my goal all season to make the Olympic team, so to actually do it is amazing.”
The 43-year-old will now fly out to Brazil on August 2 along with dressage team mates Fiona Bigwood, 2012 individual gold medal winner Charlotte Dujardin OBE and Carl Hester.
The team will be looking for a repeat of the 2012 London Olympics when Dujardin, Hester and Laura Bechtolsheimer struck gold.
The horses will fly out to the National Equestrian Centre, an hour outside Rio, on August 1, with the riders following a day later.
Wilton will be staying in the Olympic Village and travelling out to the equestrian centre each day.
And he is looking forward to a different form of competition in the team event.
He said: “I have known all my team-mates for a long time and we all get on very well.
“We normally compete against each other, so it will be a different concept wanting everyone else to do well and not wanting them to drop points.”
Wilton’s inclusion in the GB team is the culmination of 20 years’ hard work.
After leaving school at 16, he started working with horses before taking up dressage at the age of 23.
Since then, it’s been a hard slog to reach the top, and his star has continued to rise over recent years.
The last couple of years, in particular, have been highly successful for Wilton.
He said: “I had a good season last season, and I am very proud of the level of consistency that I achieved.
“With horses, it is all about trying to manage them and to get them peaking at the right time, and the whole process for the Olympics began at the end of February.”
With Dujardin, Hester and Bigwood all certain starters, it came down as a straight fight between Wilton and Lara Griffith for the fourth spot.
Wilton said: “It was very close between us, but at an international show in Belgium in March I managed to get a personal best and that bumped my average score up quite a lot.”
Super Nova II has also been a model of consistency, but it hasn’t all been plain sailing.
Wilton said: “When you are dealing with horses, then things can go wrong – it’s not like you’re a badminton player and only have to worry about your racket.
“When you are abroad with the loudspeakers, noise and flags, it can be a totally different atmosphere.
“Some horses take to it straight away, but Super Nova took a lot of time to come to terms with it, although he’s fine now.”
Wilton will be aiming to make an impact on the Games, but he knows it’s not going to be easy.
He said: “In dressage, three of the four team members’ scores count, and, as it stands, I would be expected to be the drop score unfortunately, but you never know what is going to happen.”
In the meantime, Wilton will continue his routine of training five or six times a week, as well as fitting in coaching sessions.
But with less that a month to go before the Games begin, he can’t wait for the action to get under way.
He said: “We had a kitting-out day at the NEC on Monday and now it’s all systems go.”