Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Olympian of the Day

There is an argument rumbling on about elitism in Olympic sports. Rowing and sailing are castigated as pursuits for toffs; even the Prime Minister says it is shocking that so many of our athletes come from public schools. The toffiest of all is, of course, the equestrian. Horses are often seen as posh by default, the province of the huntin' and shootin' classes, ridden by red-faced imperialists, dreaming of the golden days when people knew their place.

This has enough anecdotal truth in it to harden into stereotype. And horses are a much more expensive article than a bicycle or a pair of boxing gloves. My fear is that, as the show-jumping enters its final, nail-biting phase, this argument, which should be had, risks taking away some of the gloss of achievement. So just to show that not every person who achieves equestrian excellence is born with a perfect canteen of silver spoons, my Olympian of the day is the young Scott Brash.

He is twenty-six years old, and he is a builder's son from Peebles, a small town in the borders of Scotland. As I write this, he has one of only six clear rounds in the Olympic final. He came not from green acres and high privilege. He is where he is through his own marvellous effort. (He is also very funny. When asked what winning the team gold meant to him, by Clare Balding, live on BBC1, he said, drily, that he hoped it might improve his pulling power with women. The quote went viral as the best line of the games so far.)

Wherever he finishes today, he has delighted a whole community. Peebles is currently en fĂȘte, fired with pride in its native son. I know the town well, having friends who live just down the road. I have shopped in its chemist and eaten chips in its chippy. I love the idea of it hanging out more flags.

There is a lovely article about him in the Daily Record here -  It is really worth a read.

So here is to Scott Brash, and his lovely, brave horse, Sanctos:

Scott Brash, of Great Britain, rides his horse Hello Sanctos, during the jump-off in the equestrian show jumping team competition at the 2012 Summer O

Photograph by Markus Schreiber for AP.

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