New Zealand’s high-performance eventing manager Graeme Thom is departing from his role, and is looking forward to less travel.
During his five-year stint, the Canadian had been based between his home country and Great Britain, and says he has lost count of the number of Covid-19 tests he has had and figures he’s completed seven two-week quarantines.
Thom has no immediate plans to do anything other than enjoy the balance of the year in one place. “After that I will investigate what opportunities may exist and look forward to staying within sport if possible,” he said.
Thom, 59, had taken up the role in January 2017, and resigned in April of that year for health reasons. But after being laid up for several weeks, Thom got back in the saddle.
He says he is happy to be leaving the discipline in a better place: “I feel a lot of comfort from the buy-in and trust by the riders and staff to the incremental improvements, which have in turn have led to continued good team camaraderie and moral.
“It has been an honour and a privilege to have been part of the New Zealand eventing team,” Thom said.
Covid-19 had been a massive challenge for everyone wanting to travel, but Thom said: “When you see the determination of our riders, led by the Prices, to just keep going through these challenging times, it inspired me to make the effort as well.”
There have been many highlights in his time on the job, but Thom said, for him, it was mostly the people he has worked alongside: “From the riders to the coaches, horse health team, athlete support, selectors, owners and those at ESNZ who have given so much to the team.”
He also paid special tribute to the support from High-Performance Sport New Zealand and the New Zealand Olympic Committee. “Our team, programmes and ability to participate at the Olympic Games would not exist without them.”
Thom says that going forward, the key will be to continue to build a larger base of horses and riders. “It is great that a few more riders have made the trek to the UK and that they recognise it is an absolute must if they want to be compared to the best and grow to beat the best.”
Expanding the base of horses also needed to be front and center. “It is important to be looking forwards and managing the gaps amongst our horses – both relative to each other and to the world stage.”
ESNZ high-performance general manager Jock Paget said Thom had been on the frontline for a rollercoaster of an Olympic cycle that ran for five years and included a WEG and two Olympic preps in succession.
“Add that to the numerous changes to senior management, some legends of the sport retiring and a global pandemic, it’s hard to imagine how Graeme managed to finish the year with the same level of motivation and skill to contribute to the amazing success of Fair Hill and Pau.”
He says the Canadian will be missed by all. “He has been the lynchpin, who was tasked with the job of pulling everything together for the HP Eventing Programme and as a result has formed many strong connections.”
Paget said Thom had brought some innovative and world-class concepts to the team and programme. “We are hugely appreciative of Graeme and his time with us. His input has been invaluable and he will always be a part of this team. We wish him all the best for his next chapter.”