Zara Phillips and her Great Britain team-mates celebrated their Olympic silver medal success with a McDonalds at midnight on Tuesday. It was cheeseburgers rather than champagne on the menu before wearily crashing into bed ahead of an early-morning alarm call yesterday and more television studio tours.
Phillips, William Fox-Pitt, Mary King, Tina Cook and Nicola Wilson won Britain’s 18th post-war Olympic eventing medal after they finished second behind favourites Germany at Greenwich Park yesterday. And they have have hardly paused for breath since.
“We got off our horses after the medal presentation, they went to the stables and we’ve been going around doing all the media stuff,” triple Olympic medallist Cook said, her silver medal hanging around her neck. We didn’t get to bed until after midnight after we went to McDonalds for something to eat.
“We got back and met up with a couple of the swimmers who had finished competing, and they were having a sneaky McDonalds. We all felt a little bit like naughty schoolkids, but our competition was also over. It was after midnight when we walked out of there, then bed, before getting up bright and early today.”
Phillips believes the eventers’ triumph can only be good for the sport in Britain. Speaking to Press Association Sport at Team GB House, she said: “I’ve had texts from people saying ‘my little girl is riding around the living room pretending to be you! People have been able to see our sport over the past few days who would not normally go to watch it, and that has been great.”
The team were planning a trip to Hyde Park later today and then hoping to watch some gymnastics action at North Greenwich arena before enjoying a belated celebratory drink.
But the memory of yesterday’s action was still fresh, something that Cook feels became even more special because riders’ families were able to share it. “With the horses, the accreditation goes to the owners,” she added. “None of us own our horses, which usually means our families miss out completely. But this time they’ve been able to get tickets, and we all had family members there over the past few days.”
“It is down to the British Equestrian Federation, and the support of the Lottery that those tickets were able to be bought in advance, which meant we could then allocate them to our families.
“Our Federation, our equestrian team leader Will Connell and our team manager Yogi Breisner have all helped make our lives as stress-free as possible.”
The nature of a professional event rider’s life is such, though, that Fox-Pitt and company will be back competing within days. In his case, that is four separate competitions in eight days next week that will take him from Northamptonshire to Wiltshire, back to Northamptonshire and then Gloucestershire.“I think I’ve got a day off next Monday,” the world number one said.
“This whole Olympics has had such a massive build-up and focus. We’ve all been focusing on one or two horses in a very singular way. But we all run businesses and ride other horses.
“Owners are so supportive of what we are doing, yet the Olympics are over for us now, and they are thinking it’s now their turn. That is our responsibility. We will hopefully do a few things today. The plan is to go to Hyde Park, and then maybe go and watch some gymnastics, then tonight we just might be able to sit down and have a drink.”
With thanks to Andrew Baldock, Press Association Sport