Cameron Hanley took his first international show jumping victory today Saturday after an almost two-year absence caused by a freak accident to his knee that resulted in a total of 17 operations.
Speaking from Arezzo in Italy, the Mayo-born rider said: " It was a small class, but it's just fantastic to win again. It's been a long time since I've heard the national anthem played for me, and it's a great feeling.
"The knee is causing me no problems, but I have other small aches and pains just because I've been off the competition scene for so long.
"I have six horses here at Arezzo, and it's just wonderful to be back."
Riding the 10 year-old gelding Player du Quesnoy, Hanley took victory in today's 1m35 jump-off at the Italian venue, finishing with a seventh of a second in hand over Italian runner-up Luca Maria Moneta and Bonheur S. Yesterday, the 39-year-old also took an eighth place in the 1m45 speed class with Antello Z.
Horse Sport Ireland chairman Pat Wall said today: "Cameron is a wonderful example of determination in the face of adversity and will be a role model for many younger riders, I'm sure.
"He has been through a terrible two years with injury, but has fought his way back onto the international stage, and I am delighted to see him win today.
"I hope we'll be welcoming Cameron back onto an Irish Nations' Cup team in the not too distant future."
Hanley's knee injury occurred in May of 2011 while playing with his children in the garden of his home in Germany, where he is now based, and resulted in such severe complications that surgeons were at one stage highly sceptical that he might ever ride again.