RIO 2016: Whitaker brothers look to make experience count

Great Britain's Michael Whitaker.
Great Britain's Michael Whitaker.
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With a combined age of 116 and approaching ten Olympic Games appearances between them, show jumpers do not come more experienced that the Whitaker brothers.

Michael and John each have an Olympic silver medal to their name from the 1984 Games in Los Angeles and the Huddersfield-born pair return to the biggest stage of all looking to turn that into gold.

After missing out on London 2012, the Whitakers have both been selected for Team GBs show jumping quartet, with John making his sixth Olympic appearance, just one behind teammate Nick Skelton who sets a British record with seven, in Brazil.

The pair have not lost any enthusiasm for competition though and younger brother Michael is aiming to match the Team GB performance from London 2012, where they won team gold.

“The excitement is definitely still there, it will probably be one of my last ones,” said the 56-year-old.

“Hopefully not, but realistically I won’t have too many more, so I have to try and make the most of it.

“I think we have a realistic chance, we have to pull it off on the day but the team is capable of doing it.

“If we get a medal obviously it would be nice, but at the moment we are thinking about trying to win it.

“I think they did an unbelievably good job in 2012, but that has no relevance to my Olympics now, in 2016.

“They are different Games, different people - although it does prove it can be done.”

Whitaker is riding Beverley Widdowson’s Cassionato in Rio and said he has been targeting Rio for the past year giving the horse a rest over the winter to ensure he was in peak condition this summer.

The remainder of the British show jumping team is made up of Skelton, 58; older brother John - who is still based in west Yorkshire - and relative young gun Ben Maher, who at age 33 is nearly half the age of his compatriots.

Both Skelton and Maher were part of that gold medal-winning team from 2012 though and John, 60, hopes to help them to further glory riding Team Harmony Management Co Ltd’s Ornellaia.

“I’ve still got my enthusiasm, I want to ride, I want to win and I am doing quite well in terms of winning, on my day, and I am still enjoying it,” said the five-time Olympian.

“I’ve got silver in my back pocket already but it would be nice to go one better this time.

“I try to be consistently good as much as I can, but for the Olympics you have to give that little bit more and try a bit harder to make it work.

“I think we do it for Great Britain, Yorkshire and the family, every time we go out to compete.”

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