Olympic honours well received but it is grass-roots that drive evergreen Bartle

Christopher Bartle and Pippa Norris
Christopher Bartle and Pippa Norris
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CHRIS Bartle has enjoyed success all over the world – notably in Los Angeles and most recently at London 2012.

But he will forever have an affinity with grass-roots equestrian, which is set to blossom further through an exciting ‘Equine Academy’ based at Askham Bryan College.

Bartle, 60, had a stellar 2012 heralded by a gold-medal success for the German eventing team he coaches at the Olympics.

And the glory did not end there with Bartle, based at his Yorkshire Riding Centre in Markington, also coach to Northallerton’s eventing silver medallist Nicola Wilson and Sweden’s Ludwig Svennerstal, who competed in his first Games.

Olympic accolades are nothing new to Bartle, whose first appearance came as a 32-year-old in Los Angeles in 1984, in which he finished sixth in the dressage.

But while continuing his glorious association with the Games at Rio is the next long-term goal, so, too, is involving himself in his new Equine Academy for star students of Askham Bryan College. The College’s brightest hopes battled for a place on the Academy, the four lucky winners to receive regular tuition from Bartle, plus Academy coach Kay Lamb and director Fiona Harrison.

Wakefield’s Steph Dowle (21), Bainton’s Pippa Norris (19), Womersley’s Sophie Platts (18) and Brigg’s Georgia Harness (17) were the lucky winners.

The quartet will now be tutored by one of the best coaches in the business, but typical of Bartle’s humble attitude, he insists he is only a small cog in the whole Academy machine.

“I was approached by the college and I think the concept of the Academy is great,” said Bartle.

“It’s starting off quite small but working towards elite sport and to encourage young people who are at college to think outside the small bubble – to think of themselves as potential stars similar to those that were competing in London. I am only one small element in the coaching team but hopefully I can play a significant role in motivating, guiding and mentoring these students at a top class Academy.”

More likely Bartle will play the leading role, with the Harrogate-born star having a track record both as competitor and trainer that is second to none. Up until London 2012 he held a 28-year British Olympic record.

Bartle’s sixth-placed dressage finish at LA 1984 was Britain’s previous best – until Charlotte Dujardin and company obliterated that with gold this summer.

“I must say I didn’t really think about the record,” said Bartle. “But the longer it was held the more amazed I was.

“The fact that it was not just pipped by one place but hit for six by such a fantastic result for Britain – for Charlotte and Allegro and the whole team – that makes it very special. There are no regrets on my part that my record has gone.

“I was very much rooting for the Brits in London in the dressage but of course because of my job as eventing coach for the Germans I can’t say that I wasn’t rooting for the Germans.”

Asked about what his friends think about him coaching the German national team, Bartle laughed: “I get plenty of leg pulling and prodding. But it’s all very friendly and it’s a very close-knit sport we are in.

“There’s a great atmosphere in the sport as well, we all support each other and 2012 has been a pretty good year for me. I’m very much looking forward to the future.”