NZ eventing big winner in high-performance funding

Jonathan Paget and Clifton Lush
Kiwi eventer Jonathan Paget, with Clifton Lush. © Mike Bain

Eventing is the only equestrian sport to benefit in the latest round of funding announced by High Performance Sport New Zealand, following on from the bronze medal success of the nation’s team at the London Olympics.

The funding is specifically for the eventing high performance programme, with the investment reflecting the potential for the discipline to add further medals at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janiero.

However, the dressage, jumping and para-equestrian disciplines have failed to attract any funding in the round, despite detailed applications submitted by Equestrian Sports New Zealand (ESNZ).

The move would appear to reflect the funding body’s view that New Zealand stood little prospect of producing medal-winning Olympic performances in these disciplines.

But it is a very different story for the rising prospects of the nation’s eventing team, which outperformed several strong equestrian nations to claim the bronze in London.

ESNZ was granted the largest increase of any sport and will receive $1.8m per year for the next four years leading up to Rio; a total of $7.2m compared to $3.2m in the previous four-year cycle.

This potential is highlighted in the latest FEI world rankings, which lists three Kiwis (Andrew Nicholson 1st, Jonathan Paget 4th and Mark Todd 6th) in the top six in the world at the end of the 2012 northern hemisphere season.

ESNZ said while the news was disappointing for the dressage, jumping and para-equestrian disciplines, it was dedicated to seeking both internal and external financial support, including commercial partnerships, for these programmes to ensure that performance targets can be met at both the World Equestrian Games in Normandy in 2014 and the Rio Olympics.

ESNZ did not submit a funding application for endurance as its non-Olympic status requires higher current performance standards to attract investment. It is hoped that a strong performance at World Equestrian Games in 2014 will enable ESNZ to apply for endurance programme investment from 2015.

ESNZ will also receive $275,000 a year in performance enhancement grants, which are targeted towards high-performance eventing riders’ individual performance plans.

In making the funding announcements, High Performance Sport New Zealand chief executive Alex Baumann described 2012 as an exceptional year for New Zealand sport, with Kiwi athletes winning 13 medals at the London Olympics and 17 medals at the Paralympic Games, while many other Kiwi athletes and teams won on the world stage.

“These results set a new benchmark. We’re announcing today how we will target our resources to support sports to the podium at targeted world championships, the Winter Olympic and Winter Paralympic Games in 2014, and the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and beyond.

“We’re targeting one or more medals at the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, two or more gold medals at the Paralympic Winter Games, 14 or more medals at the Rio Olympics, and 8 to 12 gold medals at the Rio Paralympic Games, and we’re investing in the sports we believe can deliver them.

“We have … significantly increased our investment in equestrian eventing, canoe racing and the Black Sticks women’s hockey programme, because we believe they can deliver podium results in 2016,” he said.

He continued: “New Zealand doesn’t have the resources that other larger nations have, but we are confident that by continuing the targeted investment approach that’s been in place since 2006, we can continue to deliver the results New Zealanders want to see.

“New Zealand’s next medal and world championship winners will come from the sports we are investing in today.”

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