Vale Gillian Rolton
18 November 2017
AOC: Two-time Olympic gold medallist Gillian Rolton OAM has passed away aged 61 after a two-year battle with endometrial cancer.
On behalf of the Olympic movement, President of the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC), John Coates, paid tribute to Rolton. “Gillian was a determined, brave and courageous athlete and showed just the same qualities while battling her illness over the past few years.
“She is a true inspiration to all of us and I extend my deepest condolences to her family and friends. Coates praised Rolton for her amazing contribution to sport and the Olympic Movement after her retirement from sport.
“Gillian continued to give back to the sport she loved well after her retirement having held many administrative positions for her sport of Equestrian.
A great supporter of the Olympic movement, she was always giving of her time for fundraising efforts for the Australian Olympic Team,” said Coates.
Rolton made her Olympic debut at the Barcelona 1992 Games as a part of the three-day equestrian event team before backing up four years later in Atlanta. She was given her first horse at the age of 10, and began riding competitively soon after.
She was a late inclusion in the Barcelona 1992 team, also with Peppermint Grove, after beating all male members of the team in the final selection trial at Savernake, England.
The Australians, Matt Ryan, Andrew Hoy, David Green and Rolton, were in second place behind New Zealand for the final team jumping phase. One New Zealand rider had a disastrous round, and Rolton, Hoy and Ryan all rode with poise to win the gold.
At her second and final Games campaign in 1996 she won her second gold medal while finishing with a broken collarbone and broken ribs.
Contesting the event alongside Hoy, Phillip Dutton and Wendy Schaeffer she suffered her injuries when her beloved mount Peppermint Grove fell and skidded during the endurance phase of the event.
She remounted, unaware that she had suffered the fractures, and rode on, now unable to use her left arm.
She and the horse came down again at the next obstacle, a water jump, and she somersaulted into the water.
She then waded out, boarded the horse again, and galloped for another three kilometres, clearing 15 more fences, to finish the course.
An ambulance took her to hospital, where she refused pain-killing drugs because she felt she might be needed for the final team jumping round the next day. She wasn’t, but Rolton’s gallantry served as an inspiration to her fellow riders, and the entire Australian team.
She remains as only one of four Australians to win at least two equestrian Olympic gold medals.
Rolton was given the honour of being one of eight flagbearers to carry the Olympic flag at the Opening Ceremony at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. She is survived by her husband Greg.