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The Big Interview: Young Preston showjumper Robert Murphy is aiming high

Robert Murphy
Robert Murphy

Craig Salmon talks to rising Preston showjumper Robert Murphy, who harbours dreams of one day competing at the Olympic Games

Getting inside the mind and life of an Olympic champion is sure to benefit any aspiring young athlete.

Robert Murphy

Robert Murphy

That was certainly the case for 17-year-old Preston showjumper Robert Murphy, who got the opportunity to work in close quarters with legendary British equestrian figure Nick Skelton.

The former All Hallows School pupil was invited to spend time working alongside Skelton at his stables in America.

Skelton arguably became the story of the 2016 Rio Games when he finally won individual gold – at the grand old age of 58.

Four years earlier, he had won gold in London as part of the winning Great Britain team.

Although now aged 60 and retired from the sport, Skelton remains a revered figure in the sport in this country.

And he is only too happy to help the next generation of showjumpers, including Murphy, who has won a host of competitions during burgeoning junior career..

The Preston rider certainly made an impression on the two-time Olympic champion during his stint Stateside – so much so that Skelton name-checked him as a rider he rates highly in an article published in the Horse and Hound last year.

Murphy admits being praised by such an illuminary figure within his sport was a real boost to his confidence as he looks to make his mark in the future.

“I think Nick once mentioned me – along with a few others – in an interview he did which was published in the Horse and Hound,” said Murphy

“I was lucky enough to go and work for him at his yard in America.

“It was a sort of work experience kind of thing that I did a couple of years ago.

“It was a really interesting experience and something which I learned a lot from.

“I spent three weeks with him in total.

“Nick obviously won a team gold medal in 2012 and then won individual gold four years later in Rio.

“He is one of my idols so it was great to work so closely with him.

“It’s about everything he does.

“The way he rides, the way he manages his staff and his horses.

“He has such a big team of horses, it was amazing to see first hand how organised everything was.

“Everything was like clockwork almost.

“Working with him on a daily basis sort of shows what it takes to become an Olympic champion.”

Whether Murphy will ever get the chance to compete at an Olympic Games remains to be seen.

At 17-year-old, he is still a long way off realising his potential, plus the expensive nature of the sport means he has a long road ahead of him if he is to realise his ambition.

“For me, the Olympics is a big dream , but being realistic the financial support that I have at the minute, I wouldn’t be able to support and buy myself a horse which would allow me to go to the Olympics.

“It’s all about the expense.

“I would hope for a future investor to back me which would be an ideal situation.

“But that does not happen very often – as you can imagine. I just have to keep working away and do what I can really.

“But going to an Olympics is definitely something I would like to happen – maybe not in 2020.

“I think that will come a bit too soon.

“But maybe the next Olympics after that is something that I could look at.

“But I don’t know. There are some people who do provide financial support for themselves, but I don’t think that is something I could do.

“The price of horses to go to such a major event are millions of pounds which I obviously can’t afford.”

Murphy was always likely to become a showjumper from the moment he was born.

His dad Peter was an international showjumper himself and along with his wife Eleni – they run a private yard known as Pear Tree Farm, near Lostock Hall.

“I could ride before I could walk,” said Murphy.

“My parents tried to give me the best opportunity. They did the same with my brother Michael, but he did not take it up.

“My brother was probably more naturally gifted than what I was.

“I think it was just that I worked hard and progressed over the years.”

Last weekend, Murphy earned his biggest win of his young career so far when he was crowned the winner of the National 1.40m Championship at the Horse of the Year Show wildcard qualifier.

Riding Newbridges Chablis SW.

He won the title after being the highest placed eligible rider in the class.

In 2014 he also claimed a gold medal at the Children, Junior and Young Rider European Championships on Del Fuego as a 13-year-old.

“I think that has to be the biggest highlight so far,” said Murphy. “To win the wildcard.

“I have also won five European medals – I won the individual gold in 2014 – that has to be one of my highlights too.”