Sam Griffiths - London 2012
A BRIEF INSIGHT INTO LIFE AS AN OLYMPIC EVENT RIDER'S WIFE!
As you will remember, there was much disappointment in the Griffiths Eventing Team camp when Sam wasn't selected for the Games. However, no less than two weeks later, Sam was called by one of the selectors saying that one of the reserve horses had gone lame and would he and Happy come into the Olympic Training Camp as a replacement. Sam's wife, Lucy, wrote this piece for an article for her old school magazine so we thought we'd share this extract with you all:
"Despite still feeling a little cross with the selectors - being called in as a reserve was an opportunity not to miss. So at the beginning of July I waved Sam and Happy off for two weeks of intensive training with the other team members, only to expect them home again two weeks later when the training camp was over and the team left for Greenwich. Sure enough that day came and Sam and Happy arrived home, trained up, fit and ready to go but having waved the team off from the camp that morning. I had a very deflated husband on my hands and many hugs, cooking of his favourite meals and sayings such as 'there's more to life than the Olympics' 'it's only a sport' etc etc followed!!
We went about our daily business and had just got back to life as normal when the phone rang at 5am on the Thursday morning - the day before the Olympic three day event was due to start - it was one of the selectors ringing to say one of the team members had gone lame and they were 99% sure Sam and Happy would be needed in the team but they would call back to confirm at 7am. Well, we tried to get back to sleep but that was hopeless, we sat up in bed, drinking tea and just longing for that phone to ring with good news.
Sure enough, the phone rang at 7am and Sam was told he and Happy needed to get up to Greenwhich ASAP! I can't begin to describe the excitement, panic, packing chaos, phone calls to Sam's parents in Australia that followed! The girls in the yard got to work packing all Happy's gear and Sam got his things together. I nipped out to the shops and got some champagne and croissants and we all had a quick Olympic send off breakfast together - a very special time and lovely to have all our hard working girls there to celebrate with us. Waving Sam, Happy and our headgirl off at just after 9am was a very emotional moment and one I will never forget.
As a wife of an Olympic athlete, we do not get accreditation, but we do get tickets to each phase of the event. So the next evening I got on the train to Greenwhich ready for his dressage test the next morning. I managed to see Sam for about 10 minutes that evening before he had to get the shuttle bus to the Athlete's Village. The next morning, I spoke to him on the phone to wish him luck for his dressage but it all felt very strange as I normally help him in the warm up etc and am much more 'hands on'. Nevertheless, I was so incredibly proud when he trotted into that amazing Olympic arena and performed a test that took the lead. I couldn't believe it - my husband, in the lead at the Olympics! I rushed around to the area where they leave the arena and I knew I could get a glimpse of them through the 8 foot wire fencing! Luckily Sam saw me and came over for a hug - everyone was thrilled and tearful! But no time for tears as he was whisked off for a press interview and a drug test! Later that day, Sam was able to come and meet me and we had time to discuss the test, the cross country course for the next day and how everything at home was. It was a brief interlude of normality!
Cross-country day dawned and we knew it was a good course for Happy as he has proved himself over much bigger courses over the years. Of course, the atmosphere made it all incredibly nerve wracking but incredibly exciting too! I got into the park very early so as to beat the crowds but it seemed as though everyone had had the same idea and there were just hordes of people heading towards the ticket gates - my heart sank - had I allowed enough time to get in or was the nightmare scenario about to happen and I would be left standing in a queue whilst my husband was tackling the most important event of his career?! My worries were soon dissolved though as the incredibly efficient team of 'Games Makers' and the Royal Navy got everyone through security (which, yes, did involve no liquids, aerosols, taking jewellrey off etc) at a very good pace.
Once in the park I met up with Sam's Dad, who had jumped on a plane from Australia as soon as he heard the news, and together we decided where would be our best place to watch him warm up, where would be the best viewing point whilst Sam was on course and where we might just be able to congratulate him at the finish! I had a quick phone call with Sam, wished him luck, told him to go for it and that I knew he could do it.
Soon enough, his time came around and off he set… All was going brilliantly, we had watched him on one of the many big screens negotiating the tough fences and were waiting for him to come into the last section of the course when we heard the commentator say those words I will never forget “Well, we can see Happy Times, but we can't see Sam Griffiths on his back” Just ghastly… I started running to the area where I knew Sam was roughly, bashing many unsuspecting spectators out of my way as I went and then I saw Sam covered in grass stains, also trying to fight his way through the crowds to try and find Happy who had long since galloped back to the start box. I was just relieved to see he was in one piece but, as would be expected, Sam was seriously disappointed - they had slipped up on the flat between the fences - just the worst luck and something that could have happened to anyone at anytime but it had to happen to us at the Olympic games.
I went with him back to the team area where one of the other riders lent me their accreditation so that I could be with Sam but nothing I, or anyone said, was going to console him at this stage. All those years of work had been thrown away by one slip on a turn - unbelievable. But then you just have to remind yourself that much worse things happen. Sam and the horse were both fine, he was going fantastically well and of course, he is and always will be an Olympian and how many people in the world can say that? At the moment, it all still seems quite 'raw' but time is the best healer for these things and having had a taster of that amazing Olympic atmosphere it has made Sam even more hungry to get to Rio and win a medal for his country.
We are back home in Dorset now and I think we are getting our lives back to some degree of normality. It was incredibly touching how many messages of support we had throughout the Games and this in itself is very heartening and motivating for the future. Despite things not quite going or way, it was an amazing and unforgettable experience which I feel so lucky to have been a part of . Yes, it's been a rollercoaster of emotions and yes, it's really tough being the one picking up the pieces when things go wrong but I wouldn't change it for anything and I just can't wait to see Sam represent his country again."