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An Olympic reality for Suffolk's Sharon Hunt

PUBLISHED: 01:32 10 July 2012 | UPDATED: 21:36 20 February 2013

An Olympic reality for Suffolk's Sharon Hunt

An Olympic reality for Suffolk's Sharon Hunt

Many are looking forward to the London Olympics and Suffolk Olympian Sharon Hunt is no exception. For the Bury St Edmunds based eventer, the build up to the Greenwich event has also been a time for reflection. Alex Licence discovers why

Many are looking forward to the London Olympics and Suffolk Olympian Sharon Hunt is no exception. For the Bury St Edmunds based eventer, the build up to the Greenwich event has also been a time for reflection. Alex Licence discovers why




Many are looking forward to the London Olympics and Suffolk Olympian Sharon Hunt is no exception. For the Bury St Edmunds based eventer, the build up to the Greenwich event has also been a time for reflection. Alex Licence discovers why









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haron Hunt is an exceptional multi-tasker one of the few times she concentrates solely on one job is when shes on horseback and even then a vast number of sub routines are coming together. Today is no exception Sharon has kindly made time to be interviewed
by phone but she is concurrently having
a re-walk of the cross-country course for the CCI*** at Bramham International, in which she is aboard her lead horse, Maisie II.


Maisie is a huge talent but she is not the one with whom Sharon, who is based at Bury St Edmunds, made her name.That accolade is reserved for Tankers Town (stable name Jasper), who Sharon herself turned into a world class 4* eventer. At the pinnacle of their partnership, they competed at the 2008 Olympics and were part of a team that brought home a bronze for Britain.


For Sharon, the onset of the 2012 Olympics has brought back fond memories. She explains: Its funny, as it gets nearer and nearer the time more memories have come flooding back.


Standing on an Olympic podium and receiving a medal is an experience that relatively few people get to enjoy a point Sharon is acutely aware of. She says: I am just really proud of the achievement Jasper and I made. I am very lucky to have had that experience.


Although Sharon recognises what an honour it is to represent ones country at the Olympics, its not an undertaking that comes without challenges. The expectation is immense not to mention the dedication and level of work required, as well as in Sharons case the logistics of getting horse and rider prepared for competition on the other side of the globe. (All the equine events for the 2008 Olympics took place in Hong Kong.)


The Olympics represent the height of any sporting career the ultimate dream and therefore carry unique pressures. Even the most seasoned competitor may find it particularly demanding on this front.


Sharon says: Looking back, I realise now the pressure I was under notfrom myself and I do feel that I coped with it well and Jasper was also phenomenal. Sharon believes that the expectation on home turf will be even greater for the 2012 Olympic eventing team, which was announced in mid June. Joining Zara Phillips aboard High Kingdom on the team are William Fox-Pitt with Lionheart, Kristina (Tina) Cook riding Miners Frolic, Mary King on Imperial Cavalier incredibly this will be the sixth Olympics Games in which King has competed and Georgina (Piggy) French aboard Jakata.




Its funny, as it gets nearer and nearer the time more memories have come flooding back.





Despite pulling in good results, Sharon knew there was only the slimmest of chances that she would receive the Olympic call up for 2012. Tankers Town is currently off work and according to Sharon, Maisie now her top competing horse is about a year away from being an Olympic level contender. This is not a point that has dampened Sharons spirits, instead it has made her even more appreciative of her own Olympic experience.


She explains: My memories of the 2008 Olympics have become all the more special having tried so hard to get back into the Olympic team this time. It really makes me realise just how difficult it is and how lucky I was to go to Hong Kong.


Sharon, who has suffered her fair share of knocks, is undoubtedly an optimist. Earlier this year she lost what had been her top horse after Maisie, Cavalier Bertie, following an accident across country, an episode she still finds very hard to discuss. Although clearly still devastated by the loss of such a remarkable animal and a lovely chap she was exceptionally fond of she is quick to point out how fortunate she is not to have been injured herself (she was on board at the time) but also to have such exciting prospects in Maisie and the other horses on her yard.


Sharon readily takes the best from a situation but she also has a deep-rooted sense of fulfillment.


Competing in the 2008 Olympics was the realisation of a lifes dream and while shed love to do it again, shes also satisfied with her achievements and progress. She says: Maisie is coming on leaps and bounds and was totally on track for Badminton [which unfortunately was cancelled]. I am just happy to be focusing on trying to consolidate and build the team of horses. That team consists of eight a relatively small number by some standards but for Sharon its been a conscious objective so she has more time for each horse. Joining Maisie on the yard is rising star Azeb (Harry) and the rest are youngsters. She enthuses: At the moment while I enjoy the high level competitions I also get as much pleasure out of producing the horses.


Now 18, Tankers Town remains a huge presence on the yard but following a tendon injury he is off work. A true professional who loves his job, Jasper has found it difficult to adjust to a slower pace of life. Sharon says: He has found it hard to accept his retirement and it is only now [after a month] that hes happy to just go out in the field. Ideally Sharon hopes to bring him back into very light work for his own satisfaction. Sharons only aim for Jasper now is simple, I just want him to enjoy life, she says.


Competing at the Olympics is the stuff of dreams but doing it on a home produced horse is the ultimate ambition and its exactly what Sharons achieved. She took Jasper on as a four-year-old and together they enjoyed a 14-year partnership.


Sharon explains: I absolutely learned as much from Jasper as he learned from me about partnerships with animals and the way they think and their emotions, about training animals and every aspect of producing an eventer. Its little surprise therefore that Sharon wants a fulfilling retirement for him.


Sharon describes one special activity she has developed for Jasper.


I take him to schools for the children to learn more about animal husbandry. Locally, the pair have recently been to Chilton Primary School in Stowmarket and Ickworth Primary in Horringer. As well as getting a valuable learning experience, the children meet an Olympian, not to mention an equine celebrity, who, according to Sharon also enjoys the attention!


Even without selection, Sharon still has many ties to the London Olympics. A particular source of pride is that a horse she produced, Kenny, looks likely to achieve selection on the Brazilian Olympic eventing team. Sharon also has a role as a chaperone and will be looking after the hockey team and sharing her Olympic experiences with them. She also has some incredible tickets to the event, specifically for the mens 200m final and the womens tennis final so she is thoroughly looking forward to some great days out!


In terms of her own career Sharons next big goal is Burghley and notching up another good result with Maisie.



Anyone interested in arranging a school visit with Sharon and Tankers Town can contact her via her website:
wwww.sharonhunteventing.com


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