Australia’s Eventing team in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics have recently been inducted into the Equestrian Australia Hall of Fame. The gold medal winning team was notable not only for its riding ability but also for its exemplary standards of raw courage and perseverance.
Wendy Schaeffer, the youngest equestrian gold medalist in history (she was only 21 when she competed at these games), rode with a broken leg which she suffered in training two months before the games. She was driven around the cross-country course in a golf buggy by Chef d’Equipe Jim Dunn, but a protest from the American team who said if she wasn’t fit enough to walk then she wasn’t fit enough to ride, saw her have to complete the 7km course walk on foot! Despite being in excruciating pain for most of the competition, Wendy still finished on top of the overall table which at previous Games would have entitled her to a second gold medal.
Also during the cross-country phase, Gillian Rolton riding the stunning grey gelding Peppermint Grove, slipped and fell on the flat at the five minute mark, causing Gill to break her collarbone and ribs. She also suffered another fall at the next fence, the tough water element, but she remounted and made it home (this was obviously during the days when you could remount on cross-country despite having a fall).
Phillip Dutton finished second to Wendy on the points table, and their teammate Andrew Hoy finished fourth, giving Australia the win by a huge 57 points from the second positioned US. Australia were in such a commanding position that Phillip Dutton could have knocked down every show jump in his round and they still would have won!
What an incredible display of strength and courage by the two female members of the team! The word ‘heroic’ definitely comes to my mind when I think of them finishing their cross-country and show jumping rounds with broken bones. What do you think globetrotters?
Reference: Equestrian Australia
Image credits: Getty Images