1915 - 2011
The deed for which Bill Roycroft will forever be renowned occurred at the Rome Olympics in 1960. On the last day of the three-day equestrian event, Australia faced a grim predicament. Two riders, Laurie Morgan and Neale Lavis, were doing well; Brian Crago’s horse had broken down, and the fourth member of the team, Bill Roycroft, was in hospital - concussed, sedated, with extensive bruising and muscle damage. Doctors refused to sanction his release from hospital. The problem was that, if Australia was to win the team event, it needed three finishers. Roycroft had fallen during the steeplechase phase the previous day after his horse, Our Solo, somersaulted over pipes and landed on him. He had climbed groggily back, finished the course, then been given oxygen (and whisky) and flown by helicopter to a hospital outside Rome.
Next morning, with the final phase, the show-jumping, due to start soon, Roycroft insisted on signing himself out of hospital. The doctors said no, and refused to give him his clothes; he then threatened to leave in his underpants. Finally, he signed a document taking responsibility for his safety, and was allowed to go. He was 45, laced heavily with pain-killers, unable to bend, and his comrades had to dress him for the last ride. He was virtually folded onto Our Solo, and the reins were placed in his hands. Stiffly, flawlessly, he completed the round of 12 jumps, ensuring team gold for Australia. (Morgan also won the individual event). Roycroft, patriarch of a legendary riding family, competed in four more Olympics, winning team bronze in 1968 and 1976. He also carried the flag at the Mexico Opening Ceremony in 1968.
Harry Gordon, AOC historian