Cook sets sights on Olympic gold

TINA Cook has set her sights on Olympic gold after being named in Team GB for London 2012 earlier this week.

The Findon eventer, who won two bronze medals in the Beijing Olympics in 2008, has been selected for the five-person eventing team along with the Queen’s grand-daughter Zara Phillips, William Fox-Pitt, Georgina French and Mary King.

Cook described a sense of relief and excitement when the call came on Monday after what she admitted has been a difficult year in her life.

The 41-year-old almost lost double-bronze winning horse Miners Frolic last year to a life-threatening illness, before her father, well-known trainer Josh Gifford, died of a heart attack in February.

But the popular, down-to-earth rider will now be focusing on the upcoming task and the honour of representing Great Britain in her home country.

She said: “It’s every athlete’s dream to get a place and to get the call on Monday was an awesome feeling.

“It would have been in doubt over the past year as the horse nearly died from colitis, so that, of course, may have put doubt in the selector’s minds.

“Of course, we want to be going for gold, we have a strong team and with good performances there is no reason we can’t do that.

“It was total relief as well as excitement when that call came – it’s not been a great year for me, with the horse being ill and losing my father, so it’s been very emotional for me.”

The selection panel of Ian Stark, Mandy Stibbe and Angela Tucker made their final decisions for the squad following Sunday’s Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials, in Yorkshire, and contacted their chosen Great Britain representatives on Monday.

Cook will be riding with 2006 world champion Phillips in the Royal Family member’s first Olympics after she missed Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008 because her former horse, Toytown, was injured on both occasions – meaning she was also unable to compete as riders must ride just one horse.

On her appointment with royalty, Cook said: “We haven’t been in the team together, but we are good friends and she is a worthy competitor and well worthy of a place.”

Phillips will be aboard new horse High Kingdom, while world number-one Fox-Pitt will ride Lionheart, King on Imperial Cavalier and French will partner Jakata.

All five competitors will now be hoping to stay away from injury to themselves as well as their horses, while also balancing that with increased training for their animals to prepare them for the event.

Cook added: “We do up the training now to a certain extent as you can’t keep the horses in full training all the time so I have my next competition now in three weeks’ time.

“In the Olympics, you’ll always be trying your best, anyway, but I take each day at a time. I need to avoid injury still as just because you’re selected doesn’t mean I’m there yet, both myself and the horse need to avoid injury, but, yes, I am enjoying the moment.”