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Rich Fellers tries to stay focused as he readies for first Olympics equestrian competition.

by: SOPHIE DURIEUX/USEF - Sherwoods Rich Fellers is competing in his first Olympics this weekend, hoping to bring home the USAs third gold medal in equestrian show jumping.Across London, Olympic athletes are training, meeting fellow competitors from around the globe, and getting ready to represent their countries.

But on a Sunday afternoon in Holland, Rich Fellers is doing his taxes.

“Right now I don’t know what to do with myself,” the 52-year-old Olympain said from his hotel room.

The Sherwood father of two is putting in the final bit of work at a Dutch training facility before he heads to London to compete in equestrian show jumping with his horse “Flexible.”

Equestrian show jumping begins Saturday and will be televised on the NBC Sports Network.

To watch Rich Fellers and the rest of the equestrian jumping competition, tune to the NBC Sports Network on Saturday, Aug. 4 at 12:30 p.m. For the list of televised Olympic events and when to watch, visit nbcolympics.com.

But for Fellers, focusing all his attention on a single horse has left him with some unexpected free time.

“Typically at a show jumping tournament, with all the other events, I have 10 or 12 horses that I am responsible for and I am competing and riding on four or five horses,” he said. “Right now I don’t know what to do with myself.”

Fellers and Flexible ride twice a day, but Fellers said that he doesn’t want to stress the stallion out before the competition.

“He’s ready to go,” said Fellers, who has been riding Flexible for a decade. “I’m anxious to do it, I’m tired of waiting around.”

‘No replacement for experience’

Although this is his first Olympics, Fellers is one of the oldest Americans competing in the games. At 16, Flexible is no spring chicken either.

by: MOLLY SORGE/CHRONICLE OF THE HORSE - Rich Fellers and his horse Flexible won the 2012 FEI World Cup this year and will compete in the 2012 Olympics starting on Saturday. “My horse is a bit older, and I’m probably a little bit older than the average rider,” Fellers admitted.

But don’t sell them short, he said. “It’s like they say about anything, there’s no replacement for experience.

“This season in particular, we’ve had a real streak of very good experience with winning.”

That’s putting it mildly.

In April, Fellers and Flexible won the 2012 Rolex FEI World Cup in The Netherlands, becoming the first Americans to win the event in a quarter-century.

That win was the first in a series for Fellers and Flexible that hasn’t stopped, shooting the pair into the national spotlight.

The pair swept the Olympic observation events to make it onto the team, winning the Surfside Grand Prix, Hermes Grand Prix, Husky Energy Cup, CN Performance Grand Prix. They were the first-ranked combination for the U.S. Olympic team.

“Everything is where it should be and I couldn’t be happier with how it’s all going,” Fellers said.

“In my career I have never been on a run like I’m on currently, and hopefully it will continue. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anyone have a streak like I’ve had in the last four months.”

Even a few days before the two are to compete on the biggest stage of their careers, Fellers and Flexible aren’t feeling the pressure.

“I’m not changing a thing we’re doing,” Fellers said. “Hopefully with a little luck and Flexible in the same kind of zone, I think he should be pretty competitive.”

Just another competition

by: SPORTFOT/USEF  - Rich Fellers tried out for the 2000 and 2004 Olympics. This will be his first Olympic games.Fellers said that going into the games as if it were just another competition is important to maintain his focus.

“If you get too into all the excitement and people and the media you’re going to lose some of the focus you’ll need when its time to execute,” he said. “I have to try to just keep it as simple as I can as far as preparation and hopefully walk into the ring and execute at the same level I have.”

Fellers and Flexible have a lot to live up to. The U.S. show jumping team won the gold in 2004 and 2008, but Fellers — who is competing in his first Olympics — said that he isn’t letting the pressure of a third gold medal get to him.

Competing alongside Fellers on the American show jumping team are two-time gold medal winners McLain Ward and Beezi Madden, and 18-year-old phenom Reed Kessler.

Fellers said that his teammates haven’t brought up their previous gold medal wins, or the possibility of winning the event for the third year in a row.

“Nobody has said that’s what we need to do,” Fellers said. “But, of course, we all know that we do.”

Fellers said that while many horses wear out by Flexible’s age, it’s only now that the Irish bred stallion has come into his own.

“What is so difficult about our sport is that at about the same time that you start having the experience to be super consistent and competitive you start wearing out,” Fellers said. “It happens in professional sports in general, like football or basketball. You start getting aches and pains and breaking down at about the same time they start to get super sharp with the mental part of the game.”

But Flexible — as his name implies — has been able to turn his age into a strength.

“Most horses are finished by the time they are 16,” Fellers said, “but Flexible doesn’t show any signs that he’s wearing out.”

Flexible’s owner, Harry Chapman of Portland, put it another way: “There are some athletes that are good at what they do, but they don’t like their job. Flexible likes his job.”

Chemistry that works

Fellers has been riding for Harry and Mollie Chapman since 1989.

“I knew (Rich) since he was a teenager,” said Chapman, adding that he wasn’t surprised Flexible and Fellers were bound for London.

“I knew that if he had the right horse he’d be a shoe in,” he said. “There is no shortage of talent on Rich’s part.”

Chapman said that the combination of Fellers and Flexible is that the two have such a strong relationship.

“A good horse can make an average rider better, and a good rider can make an average horse better, but it’s the combination of the two. They have a chemistry that works, like friendship,” Chapman said. “Rich is a very good horseman and they have spent a lot of time together. They have a strong report, and a strong element of trust.”

Fellers agreed.

Chapman was optimistic but was wary of saying flat out that Fellers and Flexible would bring home a medal in London.

“I certainly hope they do well,” he said. “All I can tell you is that they won the world cup this year and it doesn’t get any tougher than that.”

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