Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Olympic Experiences: British Dressage Rider Reveals Pre-Games Surgery

They say that competing in the international arena builds character. And sometimes, it turns out, your strength of character can prepare you for the international arena.

To prove that point, after yesterday's individual dressage freestyle, the press was silent when they heard a touching story that none had imagined was transpiring over the past few weeks at the Hong Kong equestrian encampment.

Emma Hindle of the British dressage team revealed last night that her Olympic appearance was little short of miraculous.

"Two weeks before I came here I had an operation for a tumor," she explained to the stunned assembled press. "I could only ride in walk when I arrived in Hong Kong and Lancet was brilliant! Usually he's difficult when you are getting on and off him, but he seemed to know I wasn't well and he just stood there for me for a change."

Emma, who lives and trains in Germany, only discovered the presence of two ovarian cysts during a team check-up and was advised to undergo surgery right away, Olympics or no Olympics. But, she shared, with extraordinary support from the British team she still made her Olympic appearance.

"I had lots of help with my horse. People kept saying 'we believe in you, you can do it'. But it took a huge effort from the team and a lot of physiotherapy and work in the gym to get me going again," Hindle pointed out.

"Everyone was so positive and so kind, I'm really proud of my horse and proud of my friends. When you are sick you find out who your real friends are, and many of my rivals turned into my best friends," she said.

One of her greatest supporters was Princess Nathalie Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein who, last Saturday, helped Denmark to team bronze. "She rode Lancet every day (for me). She lives four hours away from me and she's a really good friend," the rider pointed out, and one of Emma's other great supports was her Irish groom, Niamh Meehan, who stayed with her at the hospital and who was there when the rider was informed that she had been selected for the British team.

Emma ended up finishing seventh in the individual and was also the highest scoring British rider in the team dressage competition.

British team leader Will O'Connell confided that the initial tumor was 8 centimeters long. "During a routine pre-selection medical, it was suggested she went for further tests," he said. "They found a tumor in her ladies region which measured about eight centimetres. The Monday after Rotterdam she went in for an operation to remove said tumor and with the help of family, friends and the support staff set about getting ready in just a matter of weeks for the Games. Some six weeks to the day, she cantered up the centerline here.

"Emma’s achievement is what being an Olympian is all about – conquering adversity to produce a series of personal bests is an inspiration to any athlete. She has been quick to praise her back up team and the doctor Peter Whitehead and Physio Andy Thomas for the work they have done to make her recovery a fast one but also to her family and friends for their help and support."

Thanks to the FEI and Will O'Connell of Team GBR for help with this report.

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