Australia finished the 1960 Olympic Games in a blaze of unexpected glory, capturing two Gold Medals and a Silver Medal in equestrian events.
The Games ended with Australia’s epic equestrian victories the main topic of conversation and Russia well clear in the Gold Medal list.
The Russians totted up 43 Gold Medal victories and finished well ahead of the United States with 34 Gold Medals.
Australia finished with 8 Gold Medals, 8 Silver Medals and 6 Bronze Medals. She was in fifth position on the medal table behind Russia, U.S.A. Italy, and Germany.
Australia’s equestrian Gold Medals were won by the team in the three-day event and by team-captain Laurie Morgan, of Condobolin (N.S.W.), who won the individual title.
Another Australian, Neale Lavis, took the Silver Medal in the individual section.
Roycroft, who was suffering from concussion completed the course on Our Solo without losing a point and gave Australia its first ever Gold Medal in the testing three-day event.
Australians watching the meeting stood and cheered the lean 45-year-old Victorian farmer as he brought Our Solo back after his faultless display.
He looked very close to falling from his mount as he cantered back to the enclosure. He turned side on and with a sickly grin acknowledged the applause which rolled down from the stands.
“Where do I weigh in?” he weakly asked Australian captain Laurie Morgan as he was half-lifted from Our Solo’s back.
They were the only words he spoke. And nobody else spoke. They stood watching Roycroft in silent admiration. “Roycroft’s Ride” will be recalled for a long time after these Olympics are misty memories. It was the Victorian farmer’s endurance and team spirit which forced him from his bed to complete one of the most hazardous jumping tests in the world.
The rules state that three combinations of horse and rider must complete the event. No interchanging is allowed.
When Brian Crago’s mount Sabre was withdrawn without even being submitted for the veterinary test, it meant that Roycroft, laying dazed and shaken in a hospital bed, had to ride.
Sabre was withdrawn because it was suffering from torn suspensory ligaments. Its withdrawal probably cost Crago a Silver Medal as he was in second place after yesterday’s events.
Roycroft suffered his cracked collarbone and concussion when he fell from Our Solo yesterday.
Soon after team captain Laurie Morgan knew that Sabre was out, he went to see Roycroft in Nemezio Hospital, in Rome.
There he explained the position to Roycroft.
Roycroft threw away his arm sling and announced, “I’ll ride.”
An Australian doctor gave him the first of a series of pain-killing injections.
Roycroft had a fat, tender steak and a glass of beer.
Then his team mates dressed him in the scarlet and white riding gear and they drove to the beautiful Villa Borghese Gardens, where the arena was already packed with people.
In the huge crowd were members of the Swedish and Dutch Royal families. They applauded Roycroft as he came on to the arena.
Roycroft had to be assisted into the saddle by his teammates.
Captain Laurie Morgan lifted him gently on to Our Solo and adjusted his spurs. Roycroft looked too sick to bend down to do the job himself.
Roycroft’s injured right arm hung limply across his body and rested down on the saddle pommel.
One quick practice jump and Roycroft was on his way.
He left behind him a group of anxious Australians, who prayed for Roycroft as he went to the starting point.
He was obviously steeling himself as he tackled the first two jumps with his teeth clenched and his sun-tanned face glistening with perspiration.
At the fourth fence Our Solo almost baulked but swung back to the obstacle and cleared it well.
Cleared “Brick Wall” in Perfect Unison
Horse and rider cleared the seventh, the “Brick Wall,” in perfect unison.
It was plain sailing from there home.
Roycroft had finished the course in 1 min. 54.1 sec. without incurring one penalty point.
Lavis followed Roycroft into the arena on Mirrabooka. It was another faultless exhibition. No points were lost and although Morgan, who was the last jumper on Salad Days, lost 15.25 points, the Australian took the Gold Medal with a team total of minus 128.18 pts. to Switzerland’s minus 386.02 pts.
After Roycroft had been helped out of his scarlet coat he said quietly “I didn’t do much. The horse jumped beautifully and did it all for me.”
The Australians’ success in the equestrian events was the result of careful, long-range planning that brought the Australian team to England last year.
Over £25,000 was spent in preparing the horses and bringing the team through a preparatory tour in England and Europe.
Australia’s victories have stunned European teams which have monopolised the equestrian events for years, many with well-trained army competitors.
In London, the “Observer”, under a heading of “Australia’s Iron Man”, told the gripping story of Roycroft’s ride with a cracked collarbone. The “Sunday Times” said it was “Australia day in Rome” and called the riding of the Australian team “magnificent.”
The secretary of the Australian Equestrian Federation (Mr. H. Woodfull) said in Melbourne yesterday he was delighted with the team’s win.
Western District residents are full of pride for the performance of Bill Roycroft and the mayor of Camperdown (Cr. F. H. Fisher) said last night that Roycroft would be given a civic reception on his return.
Cr. Fisher sent Roycroft a cable after his epic ride yesterday. It read: “Congratulations Bill. Splendid effort. Camperdown is proud of you.”
Roycroft, who is a soldier settler dairy farmer, is a frequent competitor in local horse and hunting events.