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Portrait: Phillip Dutton, experienced rider aiming for eigtht Olympics

Dutton and Truluck Photo Credit: Henry Bucklow/Lazy Photography (Sffubs), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Photo Credit: Henry Bucklow/Lazy Photography (Sffubs), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Phillip Dutton has been a fixture of the American Olympic eventing team for the last 15 years, and at the age of 60, his ambition is to continue representing the team in Paris this summer. Prior to joining the American team, he represented his birth nation, Australia, participating in four World Championships and three Olympic Games. Despite his advanced age, Dutton shows no immediate plans to retire from equestrian sports This is the short version of the story of a long career. 


Early years in Australia and the move abroad

Dutton's equestrian journey began in his hometown of Nyngan, a small town with fewer than 2000 inhabitants, centrally located in the Australian state of New South Wales. There, he and his siblings rode on the family farm, honing their riding skills through the everyday use of the family horses. While this background didn't lead to a notable youth sports career for Dutton, it provided him with invaluable practical experience with horses, which he later utilized in his career as a professional athlete. 

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In 1991, like many other Australian equestrians at the time, Dutton moved abroad. He made the move along with his horse True Blue Girdwood, also known as Jug. He established a new base in Pennsylvania, USA, laying the foundation for a sporting career that would elevate him to new heights in the years to come. This journey led him to be part of the Australian team at the 1994 World Championships in The Hague, where the team finished in fourth place, while Dutton and his horse, Jug, secured the 18th position in the individual competition. Since then, the World Championships have only occurred once without Dutton's participation. 

In 1996, Dutton and Jug participated in the team competition at the Atlanta Olympics, where they, along with the Australian team, clinched gold medals. This achievement was repeated by Australia and Dutton, this time with House Doctor, four years later in Sydney. 

International succes with the United States

In 2006, after representing Australia in the World Championships for the fourth time, Dutton made the decision to ride for his new home country, the United States. It didn't take long for him to secure his first medals with the American eventing team. In 2007, he competed in the Pan American Games in Brazil with the horse Truluck. The pair excelled, winning gold in the team competition and silver in the individual competition, surpassed only by their teammate Karen O'Connor. 


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Age is just a number

Eight years later, at the age of 51, Dutton once again participated in the Pan American Games, achieving another gold medal in the team competition. By this point, his sports career had begun to decline in speed. From 1998 to 2012, he won the title of the best eventing rider in the USA thirteen out of fifteen times, with 2012 marking the last occurrence. During this fifteen-year period, he also reached the pinnacle of the FEI's rankings, becoming the world's top-ranked eventing rider in 2005. 

He has participated in every Olympic Games since his debut, and his best result in the individual competition was in 2016 in Brazil. It was there that he won his first and so far only individual Olympic medal. Teaming up with Mighty Nice, they secured the third position, earning Dutton a bronze medal. Now, the goal is set on making it to Paris this year. Only time will tell if his skills and determination will be enough for Dutton to compete in his eighth Olympics, how he will fare if he does, and what the future holds thereafter. 

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