There’s no money at the Olympics, but winning a gold medal is what you dream about growing up

“I fully admit I don’t know where I am quite a lot of the time,” he smiles. “I get up regularly in the middle of the night in hotel bedrooms and walk left and bathroom’s right. Yes, sometimes it’s tiring. But when you’ve had the kind of year I’ve just had it makes things easier. Put it this way: when you get on the plane to go home after winning, you don’t feel half as tired as when you haven’t.” 

Negotiating the geography of hotel rooms will not be an issue this coming week.  After competing in the hugely lucrative Rolex Grand Slam in Geneva on Sunday, Maher will be back in the most familiar of surrounds: the London International Horse Show at Olympia.  

“It means more to me personally than any other show,” he says. “In October, November, at the end of the long season, it is hard to keep motivated with all the travelling, the hotels. So when Olympia comes around I get a new lease of life. Basically it’s Christmas.” 

And the celebrations will involve those closest to him.

“I’m not from a horse family, but Olympia is the one event my relatives and friends will be coming to watch. I’ve always loved it. I remember watching it on TV as a boy, longing to be there some day competing. It never disappoints. Riding into that incredible arena, packed out every day, in a way you just don’t get anywhere else: what a privilege.”

The crowds at Olympia, he suggests, are indicative of his sport’s enduring popularity.

“I’m very rarely at home, but last weekend I was and went to the supermarket,” he says. “I got stopped by half a dozen people telling me how much they love the sport.” Though he believes more could be done to attract a wider audience. 

“I don’t believe we use data as well as we could,” he says, as he conducts a guided tour of his stables, stopping in front of a computer screen fizzing with information about his horses. “Get the statistics out there, I know all my horses’ clear round rate, their prize money, their wins. We need to make that data available, make the sport more interactive. It would add an extra narrative to what we’re doing.”  One thing, though, no amount of data can disguise about Maher’s appearance in his favourite event at Olympia: he will not be riding either of the two horses he hopes will be in action in Tokyo. 

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