BBC BLOGS - Ollie Williams

Archives for April 2011

Following a Badminton star in the making

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Ollie Williams | 22:29 UK time, Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Badminton Horse Trials, Gloucestershire

"When people ask me what I'd love to win, I say Olympic gold. But Badminton would be very shortly afterwards."

Piggy French is 30 years old, one of the best three-day eventing riders in Britain, and nervous. Badminton Horse Trials are a month away, and a BBC Sport camera crew - in the shape of me - will be following her all the way.

Badminton sends shivers down her spine. It is her sport's equivalent of the British Open golf or Wimbledon tennis.

The sport of eventing requires that you pilot your horse through the technical drill of dressage, the strategic endurance test of cross-country and the pressure cooker of a showjumping finale.

At Badminton, all three push both horse and rider to the limit - and, this year, Olympic qualification is a factor as well. I'm following French and her horse, Jakata, to find out what goes on behind the scenes at a competition this big.

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Can eventing's newest star make it to the Olympics?

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Ollie Williams | 23:13 UK time, Friday, 22 April 2011

Not many Olympians can thank a pony for their shot at gold, but it may yet happen for Laura Collett. Without a 4ft 8in four-legged friend, she wouldn't be leading the Badminton Horse Trials on her debut.

In 2004, as a teenager struggling to find the money to stay in equestrian sport, Collett and her mother managed to procure a pony named Noble Springbok for a knock-down price.

Together, Collett and Noble Springbok had a go at three-day eventing - where riders compete in a form of horse triathlon, taking in dressage, cross-country and show jumping. The pair excelled themselves, were selected to take part in the 2005 Pony Europeans and helped Britain to team gold, picking up individual bronze on the way.

In the grand scheme of elite equestrian sport, those results are unspectacular, as was the eventual sale of Noble Springbok to the family of fellow junior star Libby Soley.

However, when the Soleys sold the pony to another family - the Walkers - a chain of events sparked to life which has propelled Collett to the highest echelons of eventing.

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Next generation of savvy teenage gymnasts emerging

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Ollie Williams | 11:34 UK time, Wednesday, 13 April 2011

British results at this year's European Gymnastics may not make quite the same reading as last year's, but the gymnasts themselves become all the more impressive with time - on and off the apparatus.

Beth Tweddle surrendered one of her two European titles (a calf injury putting paid to her chances on the floor) and Daniel Keatings failed to make a comeback in time to defend his own European gold, but the British team remained vibrant, threatening and confident in Berlin's Max-Schmeling-Halle.

Saturday produced their undoubted highlight in Tweddle's uneven bars gold, a day after Dan Purvis had recorded Britain's only other medal of the championships: bronze in the men's all-around final.

But the real story lay in Sunday's high bar final, the last event of the competition, where Nottingham 18-year-old Sam Oldham found himself narrowly squeezed out of the medals on his debut at a major senior tournament.

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