AN ELLESMERE Olympic gold medallist will be leading the British challenge in the Badminton Horse Trials this weekend when they return after a three-year absence.

Oliver Townend will join his fellow Olympic gold medallists Laura Collett and Tom McEwen for the event which takes place in Badminton Park, South Gloucestershire from Wednesday, May 4 to Sunday, May 8.

Townend, who was a Badminton champion 13 years ago and a three-times runner up, will be competing on his horse, Ballaghmor Class, which he rode in at the Tokyo Olympics.

Laura said it is the first Badminton for her horse, London 52, which she rode at the Olympics.

She added: "It was a bit crazy after Tokyo, and we got to attend some really nice parties in the winter, but we are back to reality.

"I have always believed in the horse, and it was great that he got the chance to prove that he is as good as I always thought he was.

"He has come out really well this season and feels like he has started from where he left off.

"It’s his first Badminton. It is so different to any other event, the crowds on cross-country day are like nowhere else really.”

Collett added it will be a surprise for both horses and riders because this is the first Badminton Horse Trials since 2019.

She said: "Coming off the back of two years of lockdowns, it is going to be a big surprise for horses and riders. We are not used to it.

"If you ask any rider, however many times they go to Badminton, it never loses its special feeling.

"There are so many brilliant British combinations.

"We could have sent three teams to the Olympics, and any one of them could have come back with a gold medal, and that strength in depth is incredible at the moment.

"It is very exciting times.

The director of the horse trials, Jane Tuckwell said she was relieved.

She added: "I am just so relieved for everyone.

"It feels like the event has had a very long pause button on it, but we have kept working all the way through. Everyone’s backing and support drives you.

"We have the most amazing team. Every person, every cog, is as important as the next person."