The Olympics is a dream in the eyes of many riders (as it is with athletes in all sports), the culmination of a lifetime of training and work. It’s also a team event. Riders are not competing for just themselves, they are part of a team, representing their country.
Every rider, and every horse, may be called to go beyond their normal limits, to give their all for their country.
And that’s just what William Roycroft and Our Solo did for Australia in 1960.
Australia at that point was not a favorite in the equestrian events. She was not a star like the British, German and Italian teams.
In fact, many riders looked down their noses at the Australian teams. Bill Roycroft was an Australian dairy farmer and eventer, who qualified for his first Olympics that year.
As always the cross-country course was long, grueling, and dangerous. Bill suffered a fall at one point, resulting in a cracked collarbone and a concussion. He lay in Rome’s Nemezio hospital, weak and in pain, awaiting news of how the team was doing.
The news wasn’t good. Captain Laurie Morgan came to Bill’s bedside to let him know that teammate Brian Crago had withdrawn from the event as his horse Sabre had torn suspensory ligaments. If Bill and Our Solo didn’t compete, the Australians would not have the necessary three horse and riders teams that had to complete all three phases to qualify for a medal.
Bill didn’t hesitate. Throwing away his arm sling, he announced, “I’ll ride.” Doctors gave him an injection of painkiller and his teammates helped dress him in his scarlet and white team attire before driving him to Villa Borghese Gardens, where the stadium phase awaited him.
They also had to help him into the saddle, and adjusted his spurs, as Bill was too weak to do that himself. Bill took one practice jump, while his right arm rested limply on the pommel, and he was ready to ride.
The pain he was riding in was evident from his clenched team and the sweat running down his face. But he and Our Solo cleared jump after jump. Until the fourth. Our Solo nearly ran out, giving the Aussies a scare, but then swerved back and jumped the fence.
They finished clean and within the time limit.
The next team member went clean as well.
Although their captain followed with a round that accrued several faults, the Australians had the winning score…and the Gold Medal.
Bill gave the credit to Our Solo, saying, “I didn’t do much; he jumped beautifully and did it all for me.”
But it was the combination of Our Solo and his courageous rider that clinched the gold for Australia.