Monday 30 May 2011

Equestrian Dynasty :: Roycroft

The patriarch of Australia’s greatest equestrian dynasty, five-times Olympian Bill Roycroft, passed away yesterday at the age of 96. Roycroft, who was Australia’s oldest surviving Olympian, heroically won Australia’s first Olympic gold medal in the three-day event at the 1960 Rome Olympics at the age of 45.

The horseman from a central Victorian dairy farm won gold

in the three-day team event despite riding with a broken shoulder.

Roycroft navigated his trusty Our Solo around the Olympic course

while heavily sedated, having effectively broken out of hospital.

Individual and Team Gold, Rome 1960: Australian equestrian team members (from left) Laurie Morgan, John Kelly, Neale Lavis, Bill Roycroft and Brian Crago. Morgan won the individual three-day gold medal, and he, Lavis and Roycroft won the team event.

Bill made the 1960’s Rome Olympics an unforgettable event. His unimpeachable performance brought the Australia on the path of victory. It was a remarkable feat after he was initially considered unable to compete in the final round after breaking his collarbone in a fall in the steeplechase.  He had flown by helicopter to hospital outside Rome. When other team members were unable to compete, Roycroft famously signed himself out of hospital against doctors’ orders.  On the field, his comrades had to dress him for the last ride by the dint of injuries. He was unable to bend himself but with all his profound strength he holistically completed the round of 12 jumps and clinched the gold for the team. But when other team members were unable to compete, Roycroft famously signed himself out of hospital against doctors’ orders and completed the final showjumping round flawlessly. Here he was catapulted to international stardom and won a gold medal for Australia. That was the most prestigious moment!

Bill Roycroft is one of Australia’s greatest Olympians. He was born on a dairy farm in central Victoria in 1915 and grew up during the Depression. Bill rode in his first Olympics at the age of 45, in Rome, 1960. Bill went on to compete in four more Olympics.

He established a dynasty with his three sons Barry, Wayne and Clarke, who all went on to compete in Olympic eventing, as did Wayne’s former wife Vicki. As head coach, Wayne Roycroft also led the Australian team to three consecutive Olympic eventing gold medals from 1992 to 2000.


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