Kiwis thrilled with two bronze medals

October 4, 2010

New Zealand's eventers are celebrating tonight after winning two bronze medals at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky. Adding to team bronze, veteran rider Andrew Nicholson, aboard Nereo won his first individual medal at World Games level.


Andrew Nicholson and Nereo won individual bronze and led the New Zealand team to a bronze medal. © Peter Nixon/FEI
Andrew Nicholson interview
The Kiwi effort today qualified New Zealand for eventing at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Nicholson has been part of plenty a team winning performance at both Olympic and World Games level, but individual glory has long escaped him. He was ecstatic with the result but said he'd arrived in Kentucky with a good feeling.

"This is the first time I have left home really feeling I was good enough for an individual medal. It's nice that it has all come together."

He had plenty of praise for his horse Nereo and it was his solid anchor ride that secured the bronze medal for the team, after being consistent through the three disciplines - dressage, cross country yesterday and finally the showjumping today.

"I have a lot of confidence and faith in Nereo and he is very consistent through all three, getting stronger and stronger all the time."

Nereo and Nicholson were the 52nd of 55 combinations to go and they rode into a pressure-cooker atmosphere in a packed arena filled with nearly 20,000 very vocal spectators.

It was a calm and polished performance that saw them round clean, clear and into bronze. With hardly a thing separating the top four riders, it was a nail-biting few minutes as Team New Zealand watched the remaining riders go to see if there was to be an even better result in the making.

Gold medal winner Michael Jung (Germany) was untouchable at the front of the field, leading from start to finish in superb style aboard La Biosthetique-Sam FBW.

In the end, there was just 1.5 points between silver medallist William Fox-Pitt on Cool Mountain and Nicholson.

US rider Karen O'Connor and Mandiba had a nightmare in the showjumping, with a stop, a rail and then time penalties. It was that mistake that gave New Zealand the chance to move up the ranks.

It is the first time New Zealand has been on the World Games podium since 1998.

Nicholson said the team had been brilliant to be part of. "We have been through a rebuilding and are on the way up now," he said.

It had been a real team effort, from management through to vets, grooms and others who helped and supported the horses and riders to achieve glory.


Clarke Johnstone, Caroline Powell, Mark Todd and Andrew Nicholson after winning bronze at the World Equestrian Games. © Diana Dobson

Mark Todd was "absolutely thrilled" with the podium finish. "We are all over the moon."

He and NZB Grass Valley rode a polished clear round in the showjumping to finish 11th overall. He'd had to push the horse to step up a little quicker to top level than he had planned after losing his Olympic horse Gandalf in December.


Andrew Nicholson with partner Wiggy Channer (right) and Nereo's owner Libby Sellar.
Caroline Powell picked up four faults in the showjumping but took the blame for that herself. "I was a bit disappointed with the dressage but thrilled to bits with the cross country," she said.

She finished 22nd overall. The efforts of her 12-year-old horse Mac MacDonald made up for the nasty nip he gave his rider earlier in the competition. "It has all been a bit of a whirlwind," she said.

Clarke Johnstone and Orient Express had 13 faults in the showjumping and finished 39th overall.

Individual competitor Jonathan Paget, aboard Clifton Promise, rode the event of his life at his first World Games, finishing seventh overall after going clear today in the showjumping.

Chef d'equipe and trainer Erik Duvander was somewhat lost for words. The bronze was his first medal in 10 years of international coaching. But he says nerves were never an issue as he knew just what his team was capable of.

"That said, there are never any guarantees, but all the preparation had been done."

Duvander said it was incredibly exciting to see the team progress so positively over the four days of competition.

"The targets we set two years ago have been achieved - for the team, they have gone beyond. It is rather unbelievable."

The eventing press conference drew the largest crowd of any of the disciplines so far, with standing room only in the large auditorium, with photographers and journalists from all over the world keen to get words and images of the stars.


Mark Todd and Clarke Johnstone on the podium for New Zealand.
© Horsesports Photographic