The Rio Olympics are filled with stories of athletes who have managed to overcome various obstacles in order to earn the opportunity to compete on the world’s greatest stage. But in the case of Great Britain’s William Fox-Pitt, his trek to Rio was one few expected him to make due to a traumatic accident suffered during the World Young Horse Championships in France last October. Fox-Pitt fell from his horse during the cross country competition, suffering head trauma that led to doctors placing him in an induced coma.
Fox-Pitt faced an arduous rehabilitation process, and few expected him to be able to represent his nation in the Summer Olympics. But Fox-Pitt beat the odds, and through the first day of competition at the equestrian venue he leads the eventing individual dressage competition with a score of 37.00. Despite having to re-learn many of the “basic” physical activities we tend to take for granted Fox-Pit was back in the saddle two months after the injury, and he returned to competition in mid-May.
Fox-Pitt said: “After the accident, I lost a lot of strength as you would imagine.
“I couldn’t pick up my child, I couldn’t walk up the stairs, I couldn’t walk to the stables.
“My body completely deteriorated, I couldn’t drive for six months.
“In the two weeks in which I was unconscious, I lost 12kg. It has been quite the journey.”
Fox-Pitt also had a lot to do in his recovery when it came to his eyesight. There were visits with a specialist to help correct his vision, a key attribute for any athlete to have much less one expected to guide an equine through a course with few mistakes.
Four months of his recovery time included twice weekly visits to Bournemouth eye specialist Dr Shayler to correct his vision.
He said: “I was his project. He had to retrain my eyes to be straight again and be focused not be blurred. In the beginning I had double vision, and I couldn’t see very well.
“It did affect my riding. I could ride on the flat, but jumping was tricky. One fence suddenly became four, and I didn’t know which one we were jumping until the last minute!”
Riding Chilli Morning, Fox-Pitt will look to win his first Olympic medal on Sunday at the equestrian venue.