Paint the post office gold, erect a bronze horse statue or throw a party? Elsenham villagers come up with ideas to mark double Olympic champion Ben Maher's Tokyo success
A bronze horse statue, painting the post office gold, a party hosted by The Crown pub and a postbox topper knitted by the WI are just some of the suggestions of how to mark the gold medal achievements of showjumper Ben Maher, dubbed "The Pride of Elsenham" following his Olympic gold medal success in Tokyo.
The 38-year-old rider, formerly a Saffron Walden County High School pupil, returned home this week to Elsenham Stud in Fullers End with his horse Explosion W having won individual gold by 17 hundredths of a second in a thrilling jump-off in the showjumping competition on Wednesday August 4.
The pair pulled out of Saturday's team competition as the squad was out of medal contention and in the best interests of the horse to "save him for another day".
Maher's success – his second Olympic title after winning Team GB's first showjumping gold in 60 years at the London 2012 games, which resulted in Elsenham's postbox being painted in his honour – precedes an exciting summer for the equestrian star, who is due to marry his girlfriend, Sophie.
Speaking of the impending nuptials immediately after winning in Tokyo, he told BBC Sport: "I'm getting married in a couple of weeks and that makes this all the more special – but my fiancée knows she has to share me with Explosion.
"I don't know what was more pressure – this or getting married. It crossed my mind that it will be a very good party if something went right this week. We can look forward to that now."
Although Maher spends most of his time in the US, his final preparations for the Olympics saw him return to the village, where the community has since delighted in his success.
His family at home gathered to watch his jumping rounds. He said: "I rang home after it finished here, but there was a lot of screaming and crying. I couldn't hear them."
Village social media pages have been abuzz with suggestions of how to mark the double Olympic champion's remarkable achievements, particularly following a return to the saddle after he had life-changing surgery on a back injury last year. He probably would have missed the Games had they taken place in 2020.
Elsenham and Henham Uttlesford district councillor Petrina Lees asked if the post office would be painted gold, adding: "Congratulations Ben."
Joe Edmunds, manager of The Crown at Elsenham Cross, said the pub would happily consider a 'welcome home' bash after the idea was mooted online. "It's definitely something we'd be interested in doing, we just need to get hold of Ben to ask him," said Joe. "It would be nice to do something as a village."
Others praised Maher and his 12-year-old stallion Explosion W for their "class performance" and suggested painting the post box by the railway station gold or erecting a bronze statue of a jumping horse.
"Well done Ben and Explosion W, what a fantastic partnership", said one Facebook user. Others commented: "Wow, what an achievement, definitely something Elsenham should be proud of", "Congratulations Ben Maher, we are so proud of your achievement" and "You're a fantastic equestrian with an incredible horse".
Great Dunmow knitter Kathleen Shannon has already immortalised Maher in yarn after he featured as one of three Olympic champions from Essex in her Royal Mail postbox topper, which she unveiled on Sunday.
Ben was knitted alongside BMX racer Beth Shriever, 22, from Finchingfield, and gymnast Max Whitlock, who trains in Basildon, but Kathleen said she did not have time to create Explosion as well.