Reality check after Sharon’s Olympic woe

MISSING OUT?: Sharon Hunt, pictured with Olympic Bronze winning medal horse Tankers Town, looks unlikely to qualify for this Summer's London Olympics
MISSING OUT?: Sharon Hunt, pictured with Olympic Bronze winning medal horse Tankers Town, looks unlikely to qualify for this Summer's London Olympics

FOUR years ago Sharon Hunt was riding on the crest of a wave, standing alongside team-mates Daisy Dick, William Fox-Pitt, Kristina Cook and Mary King on an Olympic podium in Chaoyang District, China, having just won bronze for Great Britain in the Team Eventing.

However, with this year’s Games looming, the 34-year-old, who is ranked among the top 50 eventers in the world, is highly unlikely to be given the chance to ride out in front of a 23,000 capacity crowd at the Greenwich Park Olympic venue in July, as it appears doubtful she will qualify.

The harsh reality of a lot of equestrian disciplines is that success relies heavily on the strong partnership between rider and horse and unfortunately for the former Culford School pupil, eventing, made up of dressage, cross country and showjumping, is no different.

Hunt enjoyed major success aboard medal winning horse Tankers Town, but with him retired from competition in 2010, she has had little time to forge the same bond with new horse Just Maisie and as a result has not built up the points required to be invited to the Badminton horse trials, a pivotal competition ahead of Olympic selection, in May.

The Great Saxham-based rider, who travels to compete at the Burnham Market International event this weekend, spoke of the harsh nature of eventing as she reflected on the reality of not making a second consecutive Olympic appearance.

“Unfortunately it is unlikely that I will be going to the Olympics this year because I think it has just come a bit too early for me and Just Maisie,” she said.

“There is the Badminton trials in May, which are very important but you have to be invited to that and at the moment I’m down as a reserve.

“The Beijing Olympics were a phenomenal experience and to win a medal was a dream come true.

“The difference then was that I was riding with established horse in Tankers Town, but he retired at the end of 2010.

“I have only been riding with Just Maisie for around a year and so we are lacking that bit of experience to challenge at Badminton.

“The combination between rider and horse has to be right because with out that bond you have no chance of competing well.

“Just Maisie will be as good with Tankers Town but you need that time to form a partnership and we are just about getting there now.

“Unfortunately it is just unlucky timing and it just isn’t the right time looking at the Olympics, very few riders get the chance to go to numerous Olympics because it is all about timing.

“I’m a great believer in fate and I’m realistic in terms of reaching my goals and if it isn’t to be then it isn’t to be this time round.

“You cant chase a dream that is unlikely to happen, but I am still extremely positive about the future.”

Although her Great Britain place at this summer’s Games remains unlikely, Hunt believes the eventing team, made up of five riders, have a fantastic chance of improving on their bronze medal from four years ago but spoke of the added pressure of a home nations expectations.

“It was an unbelievable experience in Beijing and I would embrace that opportunity if it was to arise again,” she added.

“I would like to think the Great Britain team, who ever it involves, can improve on the bronze medal of last time out because we have an extremely high level of eventing in this country and they have that home advantage with it being in London.

“That home advantage can also bring that added pressure of high expectation but I’m still confident there is a possibility for numerous medals.”