22 Jul 2012

Olympic archive: equestrian Princess Anne (1972)

Having already won gold in the 1971 European eventing championships, Princess Anne was training hard for the Munich summer Olympics when ITN sent Gerald Seymour to Windsor in March 1972.

Having won the gold medal for individual eventing at the 1971 European championships, Princess Anne was a serious equestrian Olympic medal contender, writes Ian Searcey.

She was certainly training hard for the Badminton horse trials when ITN sent Gerald Seymour to the Windsor stables of Alison Oliver in March 1972 to check on her progress.

Selection for the summer games in Munich, in a sport where Great Britain was traditionally strong, meant the princess was not an automatic choice, despite her European win.

The selectors had made it clear that a good showing at Badminton and maintaining her form throughout the rest of the season was vital if she was to make the team. Concentrating on her preparations meant accepting no more official duties in the run-up to the Olympic trials.

Anne and her horses – Doublet (the European championships winner and a present from the Queen) and “the more excitable” Columbus – were being put through their paces watched only by Seymour, a royal detective, and the chairman of selectors.

The princess had the reputation of being a tough competitor, with plenty of endurance and a “dislike of not winning”. But Alison Oliver felt she had helped boost the confidence of her royal charge, and had no doubts about her strength and ability to face the tough competition in Germany.

Sadly, the 1972 Badminton horse trials and the three-day event gold medal at the Munich Olympics were won by Captain Mark Phillips. Having met in Munich and bonded over their common interest in riding, Captain Phillips and the Princess were married from November 1973.

Princess Anne had to wait until Montreal in 1976 to ride in Olympic competition.