Nicholson achieves Badminton dream after overcoming serious neck injury

May 30 2017
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IT took 33 years but Andrew Nicholson finally won the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials - just 21 months after escaping paralysis in a fall that left him with a broken neck.

IT took 33 years but Andrew Nicholson finally won the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials - just 21 months after escaping paralysis in a fall that left him with a broken neck.

The Wiltshire-based New Zealander achieved his long deserved victory with Nereo, the 17-year-old chestnut gelding who has previously carried him to a third and sixth place at the international, as well as team bronze at the London 2012 Olympics.

In emotional scenes at the end of four days of competition, fellow riders gave three cheers to the 55-year-old Kiwi, whose CV had until then failed to include the prestigious Badminton title, despite a record number of completions and finishing as close as second.

Before the 2017 running, Nicholson had completed the event an incredible 35 times. This year he made that 37, with a top 12 finish on Qwanza as well as nailing the title with Nereo.

He said: “To have waited so long and to have been so near before has been pretty hard but I had to get over it and get on. I’ve been able to come back and to finally win has given me an unbelievable feeling. 

“I’ve had Nereo since he was four-years-old and he’s always been one of my favourites. He tries to please and gives 100 per cent all of the time.”

Nicholson said having Nereo to compete played a big part in getting him back in the saddle after his serious injury in August 2015, which led to eight hours of surgery to repair fractures and stabilise his cervical spine.

His surgeon, Jeremy Reynolds, a Bristol University graduate, told him his injury would have caused paralysis in 98 per cent of cases.

Nicholson’s victory came after an equal fifth place dressage test and jumping clear with just 2.4 time penalties around the tough four-mile cross-country course designed for the first time by Eric Winter.

That pushed him up to third position ahead of the final showjumping, where he put the pressure on by going clear with one time fault.

He then rose to the top when 2016 winners Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam knocked down one fence to maintain second place, while overnight leader Ingrid Klimke had a disastrous round with Horseware Hale Bob to drop to ninth position.

Tim Price finished third with Xavier Faer, while Mark Todd was fourth with NZB Campino and sixth with Leonidas II. Rosalind Canter was best of the British in fifth with Allstar B.

Huge crowds witnessed the Badminton action, with cross-country day alone attracting so many spectators - around 100,000 - that extra parking space had to be opened.

• Rider Emily Gilruth, who was airlifted to Southmead Hospital after suffering a traumatic brain injury in a fall early on the cross-country course with Topwood Beau, has been moved from intensive care to the neurological ward and is said to be progressing steadily.

Photos courtesy of Chas Breton