Britain’s Ben Maher on his horse Explosion won individual show jumping gold at the Olympics on Wednesday in a hair-raising jump-off with three Swedes in the top five.
Sweden’s Peder Fredricson on All In retained his individual silver medal, and the Netherland’s Maikel van der Vleuten on Beauville Z won bronze in an all-male podium for the sport in which women and men compete on equal terms.
“He grew wings for me… He’s a real athlete, he’s not a normal horse,” Maher, who had a back operation last year, said of his gelding.
All three Swedish riders, Fredricson, Malin Baryard-Johnsson and Henrik von Eckermann had clear runs on Wednesday, raising hopes of a medal in the team final on Saturday.
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Daisuke Fukushima, riding for host nation Japan which last won an Olympic equestrian medal in 1932, cleared all obstacles through to the jump-off of the top six riders, punching the air before his horse’s hooves hit the ground as he put his nation back on the equestrian map.
The world numbers one and two, Germany’s Daniel Deusser and Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs, did not make it into the medal jump-off. World number three Steve Guerdat of Switzerland did not qualify for the final.
“The horse felt great I just have to ride better. It’s disappointing not because of my world ranking but because the horse did what she had to do,” Deusser said.