Harry Charles had an Olympic Games debut to savour at Tokyo Equestrian Park – nine years after his father Peter helped Great Britain win showjumping gold.
The 22-year-old will line up alongside Great Britain team-mates Ben Maher and Scott Brash in Wednesday’s individual final after they all delivered qualification clear rounds.
It was an impressive performance by the Hampshire-based rider, who watched from the Greenwich Park grandstands during London 2012 as a British quartet of Brash, Maher, Peter Charles and Nick Skelton beat Holland in a thrilling jump-off to land a first Olympic team title since 1952.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better start,” Harry Charles said, following his high-class display aboard Romeo 88.
“It felt amazing out there. I was so focused, that by the time I knew it we were at fence 11.
“This is the absolute pinnacle. Dad hasn’t given me too much information during the build-up – maybe it has been quite a while since he did one!
“We walked the course together, and it was quite a tricky course. There were so many options with the distances, and it caused a few problems.
“To reach the individual final in my first Olympics is more than I could have hoped for.”
In contrast to Charles, 38-year-old Maher is contesting his fourth successive Games.
He also has arguably the world’s best showjumping horse on current form in Explosion W, likening the riding experience to driving a Ferrari after he won last month’s £430,000 Rolex Windsor Grand Prix.
Maher, who suitably posted the evening’s quickest time, said: “The first round of the competition is my nervous round of the week. He normally improves as the week goes on, and he did everything he needed to do today.
“The course suited Explosion. It was relatively big, and he grows in confidence when I ride with a little bit of speed.
“We didn’t want to miss qualifying, so we attacked it a little bit. As a team, we all jumped clear rounds, and setting out like that on day one is very strong. We are here to try and get a result.”
Brash, like Maher a prolific winner on the sport’s Global Champions Tour, guided Jefferson home strongly to complete an immaculate night’s work for Team GB.
“There was a lot to look at in there for a first night, but he is an amazing horse,” Brash said.
“We are growing as a partnership, and we really understand each other better with every round we do.
“I think we have got a great team here, but with only three riders per team, anything can happen.”
Ireland also produced three clear rounds, with Darragh Kenny, Bertram Allen and Cian O’Connor excelling, while rock superstardom reached the Equestrian Park on Tuesday as Bruce Springsteen’s daughter made her Olympic bow.
Jessica Springsteen, daughter of ‘The Boss’ and Patti Scialfa, is the youngest member of the United States’ showjumping team in Japan.
One fence down with 12-year-old stallion Don Juan van de Donkhoeve put her out of individual final contention, but she will return for team qualifying on Friday alongside Kent Farrington and Laura Kraut.
“I am so excited to represent my country at this level,” Springsteen said. “It is something I have always dreamt of.
“Just to be selected on this team that I have looked up to throughout my career has been a huge honour for me.”