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Hampshire showjumper Charles helps win first medal for 28 years
9:06pm Monday 6th August 2012 in Sport
Great Britain's showjumpers - including Hampshire's Peter Charles - won their first Olympic medal for 28 years today - and 1984 team silver medallist Steven Smith watched proudly as they did it.
Smith, son of famous former British showjumper Harvey Smith, was in the quartet beaten to gold by the United States in Los Angeles alongside John Whitaker, Michael Whitaker and Tim Grubb.
But it has been an Olympic tale of misery since then, with Britain's best team result until today's unforgettable gold medal triumph being a sixth-placed finish in Seoul.
"The medal is long overdue, to be honest," Yorkshireman Smith, now a highly-regarded showjumping coach, told Press Association Sport.
"We've had chances before but haven't quite been able to do it.
"I think the thing about showjumping is that it's very unpredictable, but I watched that today, and it is a fantastic achievement by the British team.
"Hopefully, it can now help spark more interest in the sport in this country."
Smith used to coach one of the London 2012 British team members Ben Maher, and Maher tonight paid tribute to his former trainer after landing Olympic gold alongside Nick Skelton, Scott Brash and Hampshire's Peter Charles, from Alton.
"Steven Smith was my trainer at 11, 12, 13-years-old, and then I came back to him around the age of 22," Maher said.
"I've had a lot of good trainers, and I owe a lot to Steven.
"He taught me a lot about staying confident and trying to be a winner."
Three months ago, Smith's brother Robert caused a stir in British showjumping circles when he wrote off medal chances in a radio interview.
While Smith, an experienced international rider, talked up Skelton's Olympic chances, he was not complimentary about team hopes in general.
Speaking in April, long before the British team for London was picked, Smith said: "I think Nick is outstanding at the moment with two outstanding horses in Carlo and Big Star.
"But I think the rest are mediocre, if I am honest.
"I think Nick has got a very strong chance. He's got two very good horses, both Olympic prospects that are both very capable, but after that I think you are really scratching.
"A lot of people make a lot of flowery statements, saying everything is upbeat, but if you look around the top grands prix and Nations Cup events, then we've lost too many horses for my money."
Asked about Smith's comments at the post-event press conference in Greenwich Park, Maher said: "You are never going to win anything if you're that negative.
"We just proved today that we have good enough owners to support us and we have good enough horses. We did it, basically."
And Skelton added: "We did well with a mediocre bunch."
Attention now switches to the British dressage team, who go into tomorrow's second and final team competition phase in gold medal position.
Britain has never previously won an Olympic dressage medal.
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