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Dutton and Mighty Nice’s Olympic success makes Aiken proud

Dutton and Mighty Nice’s Olympic success makes Aiken proud

Phillip Dutton, of the United States, rides around the arena wearing the bronze medal he won in individual jumping in the equestrian competition at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Aiken is basking in the glow of an Olympic success story after Team USA’s Phillip Dutton rode Mighty Nice to a third-place finish in eventing in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday.

Dutton trains in Aiken during the winter, and he and his wife, Evie, own Red Oak Farm on Bridle Creek Trail.

The HND Group’s Mighty Nice, whose nickname is Happy, used to be owned by prominent Aiken horseman Bruce Duchossois, who died in 2014.

“I could not be more proud of the way Happy jumped today,” Dutton wrote on his Phillip Dutton Eventing Facebook page after receiving the bronze medal during the Summer Games. “I’ve never had a horse with a bigger heart. Even when he is tired or not feeling his best, he just keeps trying. I truly think he genuinely loves the sport.”

Dutton also wrote that Duchossois “believed very strongly in the talent of this horse.

“We wish Bruce could have been here to see Happy win a bronze medal at the Olympics,” Dutton added, “but we know he is watching over him.”

Dutton and Mighty Nice, a 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, were in fifth place in the individual standings after the dressage and cross-country phases of the eventing competition.

In Tuesday’s show jumping phase, they had one time penalty, but didn’t knock down any obstacles during the first round. That effort was good enough to move them up to fourth.

Then, in the second and final round, a rail fell after Mighty Nice hit it, and Dutton’s hopes for a medal faded.

Up next were Australia’s Christopher Burton and Santano II, who were in third after the first jumping round. But after making some costly mistakes, they dropped to fifth on the leaderboard and Dutton and Mighty Nice took over the No. 3 spot.

Dutton and Mighty Nice’s final score was 51.8. Germany’s Michael Jung and Sam FBW, with a score of 40.9, won the individual gold medal, earning their second straight Olympic title. Astier Nicolas, of France, and Piaf de B’Neville took the silver with a score of 48.0.

“It’s always good to be competitive,” said Dutton, who is a native of Australia. “I wasn’t expecting a medal today. I was pretty happy with fourth; I’m ecstatic with third.”

Team USA’s Boyd Martin, who also trains in Aiken during the winter, finished 16th on Blackfoot Mystery.

France captured the eventing team gold medal. Germany finished second, and Australia was third.

Dutton, 52, won Olympic gold medals as a member of the Australian eventing team in 1996 and 2000, and he rode for his native land again in 2004.

In 2006, Dutton became a U.S. citizen, and he was on America’s Olympic eventing squad in 2008 and 2012.

This year, he is the oldest U.S. Olympian in any sport.

Martin, a native of Australia, was a member of the U.S. Olympic eventing team in 2012.

In Rio, he and Blackfoot Mystery were sixth in the standings after the dressage and cross-country phases.

“Finishing 16th in the Olympic Games here in Rio wasn’t as satisfactory as standing on the podium, especially after coming so close,” Martin wrote on his Facebook page. “But I’m happy to have completed the competition and grateful to everyone for their support, particularly the members of the Blackfoot Mystery Syndicate, who have been with me every step of this journey. Congratulation to everyone taking home medals, especially Big Phil!”

Mike and Anne Laver, of Aiken, are members of the syndicate that owns Blackfoot Mystery.

Twenty-four years ago, Aiken native Charlie Simpkins earned an Olympic track and field silver medal in the triple jump in Barcelona, Spain.

Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C, she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Associated Press contributed to this story.