Mark Todd to lead NZ’s Olympic eventing team to Rio

Mark Todd (NZL) and Leonidas II put up a spectacular leap over the Cottesmore Leap. The combination is in seventh place going into the final phase.
Mark Todd and Leonidas II at Burghley’s Cottesmore Leap last year. © Steph Freeman

Eventing’s elder statesman Mark Todd is to get another tilt at the Olympic Games after he was named to New Zealand’s team for Rio 2016.

The two-time individual gold medalist, who won at Los Angeles in 1984 and Seoul in 1988, is among a team of five riders named at a ceremony in Britain today to represent New Zealand at the Olympics.

Jonathan Paget and Clifton Lush.
Jonathan Paget and Clifton Lush, pictured at Badminton last month. © Mike Bain

It will be the eighth Games for Todd – now Sir Mark Todd – who as well as gold has three other Olympic medals to his name. And at the age of 60, he will become one of New Zealand’s most senior Olympians.

Joining him in Rio and rounding out the eventing team will be his bronze medal-winning Olympic team-mates from London 2012, Jonelle Price and Jock Paget, along with Clarke Johnstone, with whom Todd won a team bronze at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Backing up the strong eventing team will be Tim Price, who is the travelling reserve.

And dressage rider Julie Brougham, 62, has also been selected to represent New Zealand at her first Olympic Games. If all goes well and she starts in Rio, the Palmerston North rider will be just the third Kiwi dressage representative at an Olympic Games, after Kallista Field (Sydney 2000) and Louisa Hill (Athens 2004, London 2012).

Brougham departed for Europe in March to focus on her Olympic build-up and is excited to be joining the team for Rio. “I am very much looking forward to being part of the New Zealand team at Rio,” she said. “Now we can focus 100% on the preparation and training for the games.”

New Zealand Olympic Committee CEO Kereyn Smith congratulated Todd on his selection. “To have athletes selected who can draw on multiple Olympic medal-winning experiences from previous campaigns is a powerful thing. Not only for these athletes, but for the entire 2016 Olympic Games Team.

“I would like to congratulate Sir Mark Todd on continuing to raise the bar ahead of his eighth Olympic Games appearance and wish every one of the athletes selected today all the very best in Rio,” she said.

In Britain, Todd said he was thrilled to be selected and is focused on delivering another strong Olympic challenge for New Zealand. “I am very happy with my horses at the moment and the strong team that has been named.

Jonelle Richards (NZL) on Faerie Dianimo
Jonelle Price, pictured on Faerie Dianimo. © Mike Bain

“I am looking forward to the competition,” he said.

Johnstone, who was forced to bow out of contention leading in to the London Games after his horse was injured, is also over the moon with news of his selection.

“To go to Rio and try to win a medal for New Zealand has been my number one focus for the last four years, so to be one step closer again is really, really exciting. I can’t wait,” he said.

Equestrian Sports New Zealand High Performance Director Sarah Dalziell-Clout noted the tight competition for these Olympic spots and commended the high standard set by all riders vying for a place in Rio. “It has been an incredibly difficult process for selectors for both dressage and eventing,” she said.

Clarke Johnstone (NZL) on Balmoral Sensation
Clarke Johnstone and Balmoral Sensation at Badminton last month. © Mike Bain

“But when selection is difficult, it’s a positive sign for New Zealand’s equestrian sport for the future. There were a lot of solid performances at the highest level from our eventers over the past 18 months, with the majority of riders having successful performances on multiple horses.

“For dressage, it has been an exciting time as new levels have been reached by our two high performance combinations (Brougham and John Thompson). With such a hard-fought contest for this single place, it was disappointing to not be able to have selected them both,” she said.

Monday’s equestrian selections takes the New Zealand Olympic Team to 109 athletes confirmed for Rio so far. The number of athletes is expected to swell in the coming weeks, with weightlifting, rugby sevens, women’s hockey, and women’s football all preparing for selection confirmations.

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