O'Connor takes his chance and bronze
Olympics:Cian O’Connor has claimed Ireland’s fourth Olympic medal of London 2012 after a third-place finish in the Individual Show Jumping final at Greenwich Park this afternoon.
The Meath-based rider and Blue Loyd 12 took bronze after a jump-off with Gerco Schroder of Holland, though O’Connor would have faced the tie-breaker with eventual winner Steve Guerdat of Switzerland had he not exceeded the time limit on his second clear run by a mere 0.02 seconds.
It was good enough to face Schroder for a silver medal, however, and after the Dutchman went clear in 49.79 seconds, O’Connor was on the verge of claiming second until Blue Loyd’s hind legs clipped the top of the last fence.
It caps a remarkable return to the stage for O’Connor, who was stripped of gold in Athens 2004 after his horse Waterford Crystal tested positive in 2004 for a human psychotropic drug.
His inclusion for the London Games was not even confirmed until late July when Denis Lynch’s appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) against his removal from the Irish team failed and O’Connor travelled in his place.
Indeed, O’Connor was only first reserve for today’s final and only made it into the decider due to the late withdrawal of Sweden's Goran Bengtsson.
"To be able to deliver, at the Olympic Games is the place to do it," O'Connor said afterwards. "And Blue Loyd, he mightn't be the biggest horse in the world, but he's got the biggest heart.
"I've been fortunate with my owners, who are the O'Reilly-Highlands. We bought the horse seven months ago, with the aim of coming here. We came here and we delivered and we did what we were supposed to do.
"So, it's a win-win situation."
O'Connor jumped the first clear round as 35 riders went through their paces this morning, and was one of 20 to make the afternoon session.
His second round was flawless on the diminutive Blue Loyd 12 but there was agony at the end when he posted a time of 80.02 seconds, to incur a time fault and leave the way clear for Guerdat to take top spot on his own.
O'Connor added: "When you come into this arena, the crowd get behind you. There's a great rivalry between the Irish and the English, but they have a bit of a soft spot for the Paddy and they give him a cheer, and that's the kind of thing that spurs you on.
"That's the kind of thing that makes you want to do well is the public support, of which there is so much of at home."
Britian's Nick Skelton could have also forced a jump-off with the 30-year-old Guerdat, but one fence down - the first his brilliant stallion Big Star has had in six rounds of jumping across team and individual competitions in London - cost him a medal.
He finished joint fifth with compatriot Scott Brash.
Skelton led going into the final showjumping round in Athens eight years ago, but eight faults there relegated him from first to 12th. His wait for an individual showjumping medal goes on, as does Britain's, with Ann Moore and Psalm the last combination to collect one when they took silver in Munich 40 years ago.
"It's one of those things," Skelton told BBC 1. "He hasn't touched a jump all week, and that was the worst time to hit one. I've been there before. It's the same thing again. What can you do? He is still a great horse.
"He's still fresh - he could go again. He was unlucky. It wasn't meant to be."