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How Piggy French overcame despair to win gold at World Equestrian Games

PUBLISHED: 15:49 18 September 2018

Great Britain, eventing team gold medalists (L-R) Richard Waygood (chef d'equipe)  Piggy French, Gemma Tattersall, Rosalind Canter and Tom McEwen. - FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 - Tryon, North Carolina, USA - 17 September 2018. 
Picture: Jon Stroud

Great Britain, eventing team gold medalists (L-R) Richard Waygood (chef d'equipe) Piggy French, Gemma Tattersall, Rosalind Canter and Tom McEwen. - FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 - Tryon, North Carolina, USA - 17 September 2018. Picture: Jon Stroud

Jon Stroud Media

East Anglia’s Piggy French has won team eventing gold at the World Equestrian Games. But why did she almost quit the sport and how did she get her unusual nickname? Sheena Grant reports.

East Anglian-born eventing star Piggy French is returning from the World Equestrian Games in the USA with a team gold medal six years after seeing her dreams of competing in the London Olympics cruelly destroyed.

Piggy, riding Quarrycrest Echo, was victorious alongside team mates Gemma Tattersall, Tom McEwen and individual gold winner Ros Canter, who together become the sixth British team to secure a world title.

Here, we take a look at the life and career of one of our most successful riders, who was born Georgina French in 1980 and is from North Elmham.

Why is she called “Piggy”?

Apparently, the nickname was bestowed upon her at a young age by her sisters, who thought she looked like Piglet, from Winnie the Pooh.

When did she start competing?

She came from a ‘horsey’ family - her mother and sister competed too. Her first championship level ride was in 2001 at the young riders’ European Championships, where she took a team gold. Other notable successes include winning the Individual Silver medal at the 2009 Europeans at Fontainebleau. She is also a past winner of a number of top level events including Blenheim and Burnham Market and been runner-up at Badminton.

What happened at the London Olympics in 2012?

Piggy, who is now based in Northamptonshire, had to miss the London Olympics and the 2013 European Championships after a succession of injuries to her top horses. She has said competing in the home games would have been a dream come true and that missing out hit her hard, causing her to question whether she even wanted to continue in the sport.

Earlier this year, she told BBC Sport: “I wanted to give up at a few stages. I was so desperate to get back to the top and over-tried to get there and sometimes things just aren’t meant to be and the harder you try and more desperate you are, the more it just keeps going wrong. I started to not enjoy the sport and not enjoy riding so much - and I’ve always, since as long as I can remember, just loved working with horses.”

How did she bounce back?

Piggy took a break from the sport, fell in love with partner Tom March and had a baby, which, she says, gave her a different perspective and more balance in her life. “Having a break from the sport, I realised there is no justice in horses and (what had happened previously) wasn’t my fault,” she has said.

How did she get to this year’s World Equestrian Games?

Piggy and Quarrycrest Echo have enjoyed a number of good results this year, winning at Chatsworth in May and two top level Norfolk events in March, Burnham Market and Great Witchingham, before being confirmed in August as part of the British eventing squad for the World Equestrian Games, running from September 11 to 23.

Does she still dream of Olympic success?

The next Olympic Games are at Tokyo in 2020. Piggy has said: “There will never be another London but there will be other Olympics and I would very much love to have a go for one of those. I would feel like I had let myself down if I hadn’t got to an Olympics.”

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