HORSE eventing rider Oliver Townend says Monday will be “one of the biggest days of my life” as he hopes to lead Great Britain to a maiden team Olympic gold in almost half a century.
The 38-year-old, from Dudleston Heath, near Oswestry, helped put Team GB in a commanding spot for the gold medal in Tokyo in the early hours of Sunday morning (August 1). Townend, the world No1, will go for gold in the team event alongside Laura Collett and Tom McEwen; the trio hold a huge lead of 17.9 penalties.
Yorkshire-born Townend, riding Ballaghmor Class, also heads the individual race for gold on 23.60, with a narrow advantage over Germany’s Julia Krajewski. Collett occupies bronze medal position and McEwen is sixth.
“I’m lost for words with Ballaghmor Class today,” said Townend on his official Facebook page.
“He jumped an unbelievable round as one of only six clears inside the time to move up to individual gold position. A massive well done to our team-mates Tom McEwen and Laura Collett also jumping fantastic rounds inside the time enabling us to hold on to team gold overnight as well.
“Tomorrow (Monday) will be one of the biggest days of my life but no matter what happens I couldn’t be prouder of the champ that is Thomas and to be part of this team.”
Townend set the tone at Sea Forest Park as the event got under way late on Saturday night UK time, jumping clear five seconds inside the optimum time aboard Ballaghmor Class, before Collett and McEwen immaculately followed suit.
Collett, who lost most of her sight in one eye and suffered multiple fractures following a cross-country fall eight years ago, proved in equally blistering form aboard London 52.
Then McEwen completed a glorious hat-trick on Toledo De Kerser, meaning that Britain lead the team event on a score of 78.30, with Australia second and France third. Ireland, meanwhile, lie eighth.
Townend was guaranteed top spot heading into Monday’s showjumping finale after overnight leader – double Olympic champion Michael Jung – knocked out a frangible fence pin two thirds of the way through his round on Chipmunk FRH to incur 11 penalties.
One round of showjumping will decide team medals on Monday, followed by the leading individual contenders jumping again.
Britain last won an Olympic eventing team gold 49 years ago in Munich, while only two riders – Richard Meade (1972) and Leslie Law (2004) – have tasted individual glory.