Olympic gold medallist focuses on the future

SOUTH Australian Wendy Schaeffer is on a different kind of mission at the Lakes and Craters Three Day Event.

The former Olympic gold medallist wants to emerge encouraged more than anything else when she takes to the showjumping and cross-country today and tomorrow.

Schaeffer, 38, has four entries in the season-ending event at Camperdown but is a noticeable absentee from the two-star and three-star classes.

Instead, she will ride in the preliminary and pre-novice classes aboard horses she hopes can make a mark in the sport in years to come.

Sun Bright and Over The Nova are entered in the preliminary class, while Smokin’ Sun and Sun Lover are in the pre-novice class.

“The young five-year-olds I’m very hopeful of getting up through the grades. They look promising for the future,” Schaeffer said.

“Obviously there is a little bit of a timeframe with the maturity of the horses.

“Realistically, it’s going to take four or five years to hit the top levels. It’s a matter of doing the groundwork at this stage and this is a good place to do it.

“It’s very much a combination effort and the challenge is to be both a manager and a trainer before you’re a rider. That’s an important thing.”

Timing is everything in eventing — both horse and rider have to be at their peak to achieve success, a fact Schaeffer knows well.

She was just 21 when she teamed with Gillian Rolton, Andrew Hoy and Phillip Dutton to win gold at Atlanta, nine weeks after breaking two bones in her leg.

The medal was the start of a decorated career which has included wins in three-day events in Adelaide, Camperdown and Melbourne.

Representing Australia at the Olympics remains a main goal. But for the time being, four top-five finishes this weekend would mean a job well done.

“Having seen the water jump, they’re a bit inexperienced with what they’ve previously done,” she said of her horses.

“I’m hoping for a safe passage and to give them a good ride and good experience.

“The pre-novice course has been nice here. It’s a nice event to get us up a level at the end of the season.”

afawkes@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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