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Nick Skelton’s show jumping gold sparks rush for his forgotten autobiography


The Rio 2016 Olympics appeared to have zero effect on bookselling until a 58-year-old from Warwickshire won a gold medal for Great Britain.

The stories behind superstars like Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, and Mo Farah are well known, but Nick Skelton is not a household name. He is a veteran equestrian, who has competed since the 1970s.

Only Falls and Horses by Nick Skelton

Skelton’s obscure autobiography, wonderfully titled Only Falls and Horses, was the top search term on AbeBooks.co.uk on Friday and Saturday after Skelton won gold in individual show jumping in his seventh Olympic Games. All copies available on AbeBooks.co.uk have now sold.

He first competed in the Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, in 1988 before many of his teammates on the current British team were born. Skelton is Britain’s oldest gold medalist since 1908.

His autobiography was published in 2001 by a small publishing company called Greenwater, which appears to no longer exist. The book is, of course, out-of-print. I strongly urge someone to update and republish this book as Skelton is a larger-than-life character.

Skelton broke his neck in a fall in 2000 and retired from competition after being told he would never ride again. He recovered.

He is no saint.  As a 21-year-old, he was knocked unconscious, in a fight, by veteran show jumper Harvey Smith. He also brawled with his mentor and former employer Ted Edgar, a key figure in British show jumping, in a Gothenburg hotel.

Skelton had a hip replacement in 2011 but rather than fade into retirement he struck gold at the 2012 London Olympics in the team show jumping event. He was named an OBE in 2012.

Now he’s gone a step further and won individual gold, and clearly there is an interest in his remarkable life and career.

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