Great Britain Announces Formidable Tokyo Team

The British Olympic team of Oliver Townend, travelling reserve Piggy March, Laura Collett, and Tom McEwen. Photo courtesy of Jon Stroud/BEF.

There’s such extraordinary strength in depth in the Britain’s eventing scene at the moment that any combination of the long-listed riders would have come forward as the firm favourites to take gold in Tokyo this summer. But it’s been a long wait to find out who will actually board the plane to Japan in a scant couple of weeks, and after the intended announcement date was delayed, speculation ran rife. This morning (July 1), British Equestrian finally opted to put us all out of our misery and reveal their hotly anticipated team.

The four horses and riders who will represent Great Britain at the Olympics are:

    • Laura Collett (31) based in Salperton, Gloucestershire, with Karen Bartlett, Keith Scott and her own London 52 (bay, gelding, 12yrs, 16.3hh, Landos x Quinar, Breeder: Ocke Riewerts GER, Groom: Matilda Sayburn-Hughes)
    • Tom McEwen (30) based in Stroud, Gloucestershire, with Fred and Penny Barker, Jane Inns and Ali McEwen’s Toledo de Kerser (bay, gelding, 14yrs, 16.1hh, Diamant de Semilly x Papillon Rouge, Breeder: Kerstin Drevet FRA, Groom: Francesca Gorni)
    • Oliver Townend (38) based in Ellesmere, Shropshire, with Karyn Shuter, Angela Hislop and Val Ryan’s Ballaghmor Class (grey, gelding, 14yo, 16.2hh, by Courage II, Breeder: Noel Hicky IRL, Groom: Jess McKie)
    • Travelling reserve: Piggy March (40) based in Maidwell, Northamptonshire, with John and Chloe Perry and Alison Swinburn’s Brookfield Inocent (bay, gelding, 12yrs, 16.3hh, Inocent x Kings Servant, Breeder: John Mulvey IRL, Groom: Amy Phillips)

Laura Collett and London 52 take the win at the 2020 edition of Les 5 Etoiles de Pau. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

All four combinations are first-time Olympians, but bring forward an extraordinary wealth of experience at the top level of the sport. Laura Collett has ridden at three Senior European Championships, as well as two at Young Rider level, two at Junior level, and one at Pony level, and with her 2020 Pau CCI5* winner London 52, she’s finished in the top five in six of her last seven international runs – and four of those six have been wins.

Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser were part of Great Britain’s gold medal winning team at the 2018 Tryon World Equestrian Games, where they finished 12th individually, and took top honours in Pau CCI5* in 2019. They’ve never finished worse than 11th in any of their six CCI5* runs, and were victorious in the CCI4*-S at Bicton last month, which served as the final selection trial for Tokyo.

Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class won Burghley on the horse’s CCI5* debut as a ten-year-old in 2017 and took Kentucky CCI5* this year; so far, they’ve never finished lower than fifth in any of their six runs at the level. Disregarding competitions at which Oliver has opted not to run cross-country, Ballaghmor Class hasn’t finished lower than third in an international since mid-2018. Though this will be a Championship debut for the gelding, Oliver has ridden at World Equestrian Games as an individual in 2006 and 2014, and has been to six European Championships: twice as an individual, once as part of the silver medal-winning team, and three times as part of gold medal-winning teams.

Piggy French and Brookfield Inocent. Photo by William Carey.

Travelling reserve combination Piggy March and Brookfield Inocent can be used as a substitute pair throughout the competition, and though the exciting horse is relatively inexperienced, his results so far are formidable: he finished second in his CCI5* debut at Pau last year, won Blenheim CCI4*-L in 2019 on his debut at the level, and has finished in the top ten in ten of his last twelve international runs. Piggy has won three European medals across her career, and was part of the gold medal-winning team at the World Equestrian Games in 2018 aboard Quarrycrest Echo.

Great Britain’s team heads to Tokyo hoping to scoop the country’s first Olympic eventing gold since Leslie Law took individual honours in 2004. The last time the British won team gold was in 1972, though they took silver at London in 2012 and bronze at Beijing in 2008.