Charles and Whitaker junior hope to keep families' Olympic tradition aflame

·4-min read

Harry Charles and Jack Whitaker aspired to be a pilot and a footballer respectively but now their sights are set on emulating their famous fathers in winning show jumping medals at the 2024 Olympics.

Charles's father Peter won team gold in 2012 and Whitaker's father John and uncle Michael took team silver in 1984.

They are part of a proud British Olympic record in showjumping -- Nick Skelton also won individual gold aged 58 in 2016.

Now their legacy has passed to a new generation.

Charles, 22, and Whitaker, 20, will get a good guide to their potential competitiveness in Paris in two years time when they take part in the Rolex Grand Prix at the Royal Windsor Horse Show on May 12-15.

Charles has already had a taste of an Olympics having reached the individual final in Tokyo last year.

"It is the best atmosphere at a horse show I have seen," he told AFP.

"Now I am two years away from Paris which has been a big, big goal for many years.

"I want to go there and compete for a medal."

He said Windsor would also be an important test for his horse Aralyn Blue.

"My horse at the Windsor Grand Prix I would say will be my number one horse for the Olympics," he said.

Whitaker rides Q Pavarotti N whom he terms "a sharp bugger" but a "fantastic jumper" and agrees Windsor is a "barometer" of where rider and horse are on the road to Paris.

"The Olympics is massive and the main goal for nearly any athlete," he said.

"You want to not only go there but also have a chance of a medal and on top of that try to win. Hopefully!"

Both Charles and Whitaker say that despite their family's illustrious history there was no pressure put on them to take up the sport.

"I had no pressure from either of my parents, we could choose our own paths," said Charles.

"I wanted to be a pilot till I was 16 and even now I have a big interest, I have flying lessons on my day off.

"However, when I was around 16-17 I decided showjumping was what I wanted to do.

"You cannot beat that winning feeling."

For a while Whitaker eyed glory in another sport.

"Showjumping was never really forced on me," he said.

"I was a keen football player at school but I was also riding at 15. The two sports take up time so you have to make your mind up.

"I felt I had a better chance of making it in show jumping even though I was at Nottingham Forest for a couple of years from 13-14."

- 'One proud daddy' -

Charles and Whitaker are close friends -- forged from following their fathers round different shows -- but that is put on ice when they compete.

"We walk the course together but at the same time we are trying to beat each other," says Whitaker.

"However, we also help each other."

Charles has a slightly different take.

"We are very good friends but once in the ring we leave friendship outside as it is each man for himself," he said.

"In competition you are there for yourself. We are both very hungry to win which makes life interesting!"

As talented as they both are, Whitaker acknowledges there will be pitfalls.

"Especially in this sport, the moment you doubt yourself you have got to think 'next week I will win'," he said.

Charles says the relationship with the horse is "the most important thing, then riding comes easy".

"Horses are not a Formula One car, they are not machines they are animals," he said.

"They do not know what they cost, they do not know if they are the best horse in the world.

"You have to trust each other, the results come from knowing each other inside out."

Charles says he would be overjoyed to have a gold medal around his neck in 2024.

"I have seen what it looks like to stand on the podium," he said.

"Hopefully with a really good horse behind you there is no reason why not in Paris.

"I would have one proud daddy."

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