3 Jun 2011
VALE BILL ROYCROFT
3 Jun 2011
One of the kings of Australian sport, champion equestrian Bill Roycroft has passed away aged 96.
There aren't too many Aussie's who don't know the name Roycroft, whether or not they're a fan of equestrian sports. As our oldest living Olympian, Bill Roycroft was head of an equestrian dynasty, and will forever go down in our sporting history.
All three of his sons Barry, Wayne and Clarke plus his daughter-in-law Vicki have competed at various Olympic Games, plus Wayne was the eventing coach during the 1990's when Australia won three consecutive Gold Medals.
Not only that, 24 of the horses who have represented Australia at Olympic Games over the years, have been produced at the Roycroft's Victorian property.
Bill competed at five consecutive Olympic Games from 1960 to 1976, winning Bronze medals at two of them. He is however, most famous for his Gold medal performance at his first Olympic appearance aged 45 at Rome in 1960.
After a shocking fall across country (which knocked him unconscious) he remounted his horse and finished the course with a broken collar bone and a severe concussion. As soon as he finished the course, he was flown to hospital by helicopter, barely coherant or able to stand on his own.
On learning early the next morning that the fourth team member had been eliminated, he checked himself out of hospital to ride a brilliant clear round in the jumping, one handed and with concussion, to help win the team Gold Medal.
You may not know, but this incredible Gold Medal win in 1960 was achieved at only Australia's second ever appearance in Eventing at an Olympic Games.
Competing against countries who have had decades of Olympic experience on purpose bred horses, the original 1956 pioneering team made a spectacular showing at Stockholm (including a jump over a fallen horse and rider) only narrowly missing out on winning a Bronze medal.
If you're interested in learning more about the history of Eventing in Australia, then do try and get a copy of TRAILBLAZERS by Wyatt (Bunty) Thompson. It's now sadly out of print, but I do have a few copies left. It's a terrific read and if it doesn't put a proud Aussie tear in your eye, then nothing will :-)