Equestrian: 36th time lucky as Andrew Nicholson wins Badminton

New Zealand's Andrew Nicholson on Nereo acknowledges the crowd as he celebrates his win at the Badminton Horse Trials. Photo / AP
New Zealand's Andrew Nicholson on Nereo acknowledges the crowd as he celebrates his win at the Badminton Horse Trials. Photo / AP

Andrew Nicholson can finally add the one trophy missing from his cabinet - the Badminton Horse Trials.

It was a fairytale finish with a very dramatic ending this morning which saw four Kiwi combinations in the top six.

Nicholson has now won what many call the Wimbledon of eventing, and the highest goal in the sport outside of the Olympic Games. He's a record-holder at Badminton as the rider with the most completions having never been the victor . . . until today in his 36th completion.

It is a remarkable comeback, after Nicholson suffered what could have been a career-ending neck injury in 2015.

Also on the podium with him today was Tim Price and Xavier Faer in third with 49.2 penalty points, Sir Mark Todd and NZB Campino in fourth on 50.4, and Todd was also sixth with Leonidas II on 58.1. Nicholson was 12th with Qwanza on 67.9, who also won the prize as best mare.

The showjumping was a heart-stopper. As the final riders were put through their paces, rails fell and positions changed, but the Kiwis did brilliantly.

Nicholson and his Spanish-bred chestnut Nereo - a horse not known for his showjumping prowess - picked up a single time fault in a very carefully ridden round, to finish on 41.4 penalty points and put all the pressure in the world on the two German superstars - defending Badminton champ Michael Jung aboard La Biosthetique Sam FBW who came into the showjumping in second place, just a smidgen behind Ingrid Klimke aboard Horseware Hale Bob Old who looked on track to become the first woman in a decade to take the title.

But it wasn't to be, with Jung adding four faults to finish in second place on 44 penalty points, and Klimke an uncharacteristic 21 to drop well out of contention.

"They're not machines," said Nicholson, as he waited on tenterhooks for the final riders to complete their rounds, "but he showed he (Nereo) can do it . . . at 17 years old."

They were hugely popular winners, with Nicholson and Nereo's owner Libby (Deborah) Sellar receiving a standing ovation when they came forward to receive the winner's trophy.

"It is an unbelievable feeling," said Nicholson. "To have waited so long, to be so near a few times . . . it is pretty hard but you just have to get over it and move on. I am lucky to be in a position to have that dream and come and put it in place."

- NZ Herald

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