Team GB Show Jumper Ben Maher unveils his medal.
The Pak is across the pond and the action is officially underway in London. In this blog series, SmartPakers Sarah and Colby will be sharing stories about the people they meet while watching the action live in the stands (and on the XC course) in Greenwich.
View from a Barstool
While I did chat with several neighbors in the stands today (all Brits, three of whom cried while singing their national anthem during the medals ceremony), the recap I really want to dive into is one of an amazing encounter I had outside the stadium.
It all started with the voiceover session for last night’s USEF Network broadcast in the USEF/USET workstation inside the equestrian athlete’s residence. The residence is home to more than the US team, though, so stumbling into a Brazilian jumper or a German vet is fairly commonplace. But last night was pretty unique.
After we wrapped our shoot, I headed out to the hotel bar to wait for my partner in crime, Dr. Donaldson, to head down for dinner. While waiting, I was finishing my beverage from the VO session, when two British equestrian support staff members walked in. I wasn’t sure if they were show jumping or dressage, but I nodded towards the Team GB badges on their chests and congratulated them on what surely had to be an awesome day. They thanked me and offered some condolences on the US rides, though it was a little hard to hear that through their irrepressible grins.
Rich, a silver-haired and entirely too stereotypical British chap, glanced down at my stout and raised an eyebrow, smiling “Guinness? Good girl.” I turned for a moment to answer my phone and by the time I’d turned back, another beer sat waiting for me. Rich, it turns out, was ready to celebrate. I hadn’t planned on having a second beer on an empty stomach, but it was hard to resist joining their growing group as more and more excited, but entirely exhausted-looking Team GB staff flowed into the bar. (My favorite entrance was one of the grooms who waltzed in hollering “What color was it?!” to which the rest of the group responded “GOLD!!!”)
Among the revelers was the farrier for the British show jumpers who, in typical farrier fashion, was decidedly handsome. He was also, like most farriers, completely down to earth and hilarious. I asked if he was excited to tear up the town, to which he responded, “No, I can’t really. I’ve got a bunch of clients to see in the morning.” Surely they’d understand that he was celebrating an Olympic medal and would be happy to serve them in the next day or so, and he informed me with a smile, “They’re disappointed I wasn’t there today.” Ah, riders…we really are all the same.
The farrier and I were soon joined by none other than Ben Maher’s mum, who was positively glowing from within. I asked what it was like to watch her son win Olympic gold and all she could get out was “Well, I…” before she got choked up and lost in her own memory of the day. “Wow,” I said, to which she responded, “Yes. Exactly.”
We then got on to chatting about Ben’s horse Tripple X, or “Hugo” as they call him. Apparently, the horse has long known that he’s deserving of Olympic gold, and he goes out of his way to make sure everyone else knows it, too, bossing positively everyone in the barn around. I asked the farrier if he was polite to shoe and he laughed, “It’s about the only thing he is polite for!” It turns out Ben bred, broke and brought Hugo along himself, which must be just another layer of icing on the already amazing cake. (For more on Ben, check out his Olympic diaries on his blog: http://www.benmaher.co.uk/olympic-diary.php)
Speaking of another layer of icing, my night got even richer as the big man himself graced the party. Yes, ladies and gents, I shared a room with the legendary Nick Skelton. I won’t lie, when he left his signed receipt on the bar, I was REALLY tempted to steal it, but I resisted. That would be an embarrassing thing to have to explain to the police (and my boss!).
As I said goodnight to the party and the city, I thought for a moment about bidding sweet dreams, but there is no possible dream sweeter than the one they’d just lived.