That made me think 'Let's go for it'." Nonetheless, the heat will require greater-than-usual levels of fitness among both the riders and their mounts, to which end for the past few months she has been getting up every other morning at six to pursue a punishing routine on a cross-trainer, not a standard start to the day for a 47-year-old mother-of-two. They've been galloping every third day with fleece rugs on, zipped right to the top of the necks, so they sweat profusely. "There's no pollution, and the Hong Kong Jockey Club at Sha Tin, where we're based, has absolutely amazing facilities. It's top spec." King will be competing on her beloved Call Again Cavalier, but has had the luxury, unlike Phillips and Wiegersma, of a substitute horse in Imperial Cavalier."It's the first time I've had a choice of two, and for [her team-mate] William Fox-Pitt to have had three is amazing.But luminosity and loveliness do not win Olympic medals, any more than sweetness and serenity overcome a broken neck to regain a place at the summit of a sport. Secretly, King was five months pregnant, and when word got out, there was predictable disapproval.Whatever, at 47 she is not only one of British sport's more determined achievers, but also one of its great survivors.She is, moreover, a woman of such luminous goodness that it would be easier for me to ride a clear round at Badminton than to find anyone in equestrian circles with a negative word to say about her."Lovely", "delightful", "sweet" and "serene" are some of the adjectives tossed at me when I tell my horsey friends who it is that I am going to interview. In 1995, when overcoming a challenging cross-country course in Italy to win European team gold, there was not only fire in her belly but also her daughter Emily.Rising Harrogate star Hazel Towers fared best of the hopes from Yorkshire with Simply Smart and Simply Clover both clear over cross country to finish 21st and 27th respectively on 51.3 and 69.3. Northallerton’s London 2012 Olympic silver medallist Nicola Wilson retired One Two Many during their cross country test after problems at the water jump in which only brilliance in the saddle saved Wilson from a dunking.
In a vast field there are hundreds of huge horse transportation trucks parked, seemingly haphazardly, although it does not take me long to find the right one.A violent green colour, plastered with sponsors' logos, it is a truck that proclaims sporting stardom, which makes the innate modesty of its owner, sitting at a table in its considerable shadow, seem incongruous. "So I'll have to keep going until London to break the record." Does she know whether she is the most experienced Olympian in Team GB as a whole? And of course Steve Redgrave went to five and won gold every time, so I'm way behind him." Despite the withdrawals of Phillips and Lucy Wiegersma, whose horses were injured, she feels confident that the eventing team can win gold this time, topping the silver medals won four years ago in Athens.Challenging that modesty outright, I ask her where her five Olympic Games place her in the pantheon of British eventers? Yet her most memorable Olympics will always be Barcelona in 1992.The 46-year-old was rushed to hospital after he fell from his Rio Olympic ride, Cooley Rorkes Drift, in Ratoath, Co Meath, on Sunday.The British-based eventer was second going into the deciding cross-country phase of the George Mernagh Memorial CIC 3-Star competition, and was just five fences from home when the accident occurred at the second element of the final water complex.It's understood the event rider landed on the right side of his head and shoulder and nearby medics raced to his aid.The athlete was quickly attended to and assessed and within minutes, both a helicopter and an ambulance were called to the scene.Poor William's three horses have three different owners, and of course each owner wants their horse to go. What a difficult situation." Fox-Pitt, the only man in the five-strong team, is an eventing veteran, but in terms of experience even he must doff his protective headgear to King."This sport is very much about experience," she says. At Badminton, for instance, there are 90 horses and riders, and it is there for the younger riders to win, but always at the end of the three-day event it is the same names in the top 10; William Fox-Pitt, Andrew Nicholson, Pippa Funnell [she delicately omits herself, though she has won twice at Badminton].Unlike Zara Phillips, or to a lesser extent Pippa Funnell and, in bygone times, Lucinda Prior-Palmer, King's fame has not transcended her sport.Yet here she is on the brink of her fifth Olympic Games, about to pull level with Sir Steve Redgrave in terms of Olympian longevity.