William Fox-Pitt says London 2012 will bring eventing to the masses
Two weeks after Wayne Rooney signed his new deal with Manchester United, worth a reputed £180,000 a week, William Fox-Pitt won three-day eventing’s richest prize in the shadows of the Pyrenees. Yet the cheque that Britain’s leading rider received for a year’s graft in the saddle amounted to about half the weekly wage of the England centre-forward.
Fox-Pitt got £95,000 for winning the HSBC FEI Classics Series, which pulls together points earned from performances at the five most prestigious competitions on the eventing calendarr – Badminton, Burghley, Kentucky, Luhmühlen and finally Pau, in south west France. But for a sport enjoyed by royalty and widely perceived to be restricted to the upper classes, it is light years from the riches enjoyed by top footballers. The Classics Series is highly regarded by the riders.
Over a three-year contract HSBC is contributing about £650,000 in prize money. The sport, however, still manages to dip under the radar of many due to those perceptions of elitism. Competitors are hoping this will alter, especially with the London Olympics, where gold medal aspirations are realistic at individual and team level.
“The Olympics in London will give the sport a huge lift. The experience of the Olympics is incredible and maybe, if we are successful in our home Olympics, it will help change the public’s perception of the sport.” said Fox-Pitt.
Britain has established a strong record on horseback down the years at the Olympics. Fox-Pitt, 41, was part of the British team that took team bronze at the Beijing Olympics four years ago.
He was also in the team that won silver at Athens in 2004 where Leslie Law, a 45-year-old from Hereford, won individual gold. A team including Zara Phillips’s father, Captain Mark Phillips, won team gold at Munich in 1972. The British team also came first four years earlier in Mexico. They won their first medal way back in Antwerp in 1920.
“Winning the Olympics is the pinnacle of any athlete’s career; it’s a dream,”
said Fox-Pitt who, with Mary King, Nicola Wilson and Kristina Cook, won the team eventing title at this year’s World Equestrian Games in Kentucky.
“It is what we are all aiming for and I’m very excited about it. This is as good as it gets and I’m sure it will be a very uplifting experience.”