Show jumper Tim Stockdale plots comeback after broken neck
Beijing Olympic show jumper Tim Stockdale, who suffered a triple neck fracture last year, believes his dream of competing at London 2012 is still possible.
The 47-year-old fell from his horse in October, but completed his first training jumps at his Northampton base last week and is targeting a competitive return by the end of March.
"It been really tough with lots of lows and obviously worry, thinking will it heal and will there be any repercussions?" Stockdale told BBC Sport.
"At the moment I feel really elated though - it's just a case of getting back with my horses, finding my groove and getting back competing again.
"I think in a couple of weeks I can do a few little shows locally and I'm on schedule for the end of the month and to be jumping in Italy. There's a lot of work to do until then but we'll take it steady," said Stockdale.
In addition to events in Italy, Stockdale is also hoping to make appearances in France towards the latter half of April, with the Royal Windsor Horse Show a key date for May.
Strong performances in those competitions will boost his chances of being selected as one of the three-strong GB show jumping team for London 2012.
"I have to show that my form is of sufficient calibre," said Stockdale who has slipped to 16th in the GB show jumping rankings after five months away from competition.
"We have form from before [the accident] and so long as we can reproduce that we're going to be very close to the selection [for the Olympics], so I've got a bit of work to do, but it's looking good."
The Worksop-born show jumper admits he was nervous before his first jumps back in the saddle, but was pleased with his progress in his first full training session since October.
"As the jumps get bigger that's when it starts to get a little bit more serious and you get a little more pensive," Stockdale told BBC Sport.
"It's an unusual feeling because I've never been this long out of the saddle really since about the age of seven. The jumps looked massive, which gives you a little adrenalin kick with that little bit of fright, but it's great and a fantastic feeling to be back."
Stockdale, who made his first international appearance for Great Britain back in 1988, had to wait 20 years before he made his Olympic debut in Beijing.
The team narrowly missed a medal, finishing fourth, something Stockdale would like to change this summer.
"When you've done one Olympic games it's the pinnacle of any athletes career," reflected Stockdale.
"To do one on your home turf would be very special and it's the excitement and incentive that any athletes needs to really pull your finger out. It would be fantastic to get to London - that would just be everybody's dream."
However, having recovered from an injury which could not only have ended his competitive career but also his active lifestyle, Stockdale is keen to remember the help and support he has received over the past few months.
"Win, lose or draw I'm already a winner with regards to life because I'm back on my feet and, through the care and attention I've had at the Spinal Unit at Oswestry, I'm going to be able to lead a normal life," concluded Stockdale.