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Kiwi eventers ramp up Olympic objective

March 2, 2011

New Zealand Eventing boss Erik Duvander has the 2012 London Olympic podium in his sights and is preparing to permanently base in England.

Andrew Nicholson was part of the team which won New Zealand's first team eventing medal in 12 years.
© Horsesports Photographic
Duvander is looking to building on last year's double bronze medal success at the World Equestrian Games, which was New Zealand's first eventing team medal in 12 years and first individual medal in 10 years. There is a strong resolve to ensure podium finishes remained a habit rather than the barren trot of recent times.

Quietly pleased with the progress of their blueprint to international success gaining momentum, there has been no let-up from Equestrian Sports New Zealand's (ESNZ) Eventing High Performance team of Duvander (Leader and Coach) and Sarah Harris (Director) as the focus switched to the 2012 London Olympics.

While not impossible, the increasing difficulty for Duvander, who has been involved with the New Zealand team since 2005, of overseeing the high performance programme to squad members at opposing ends of the world was slowing progress.

"It's been quite a tough role running things both in New Zealand and the UK and I think our programmes have suffered a little bit as a consequence," Duvander said.

"We've gained a bit of momentum [from Kentucky] but I think the quality of our programmes will be better if there's the opportunity for more hands-on and more follow-up."

With the experienced core of Andrew Nicholson, Mark Todd and Caroline Powell all based in the host's backyard for the next Olympic Games and with intimate knowledge of local conditions, the logic behind Duvander's move is clear-cut. Kentucky rookie Jonathan Paget and Clarke Johnstone, along with rising talent Lizzie Brown have also made the decision to relocate from New Zealand to give them the best possible chance of making the team.

"It will mean most of our likely Olympic candidates are going to be based in one place for the final 17 months before the Games," Duvander said. "That will have great value in us being able to work together, train together, inspire each other, support each other and drive performance."

The HP Leader is not discounting combinations that stay in New Zealand but said if they are realistically thinking about making the team, they will probably need to go over to the UK at some point and prepare with the others.

Buoyed by the progress made in Kentucky, Duvander said the mood amongst the riders was all good.

"Kentucky gave us a belief that we can win medals and that's a real good starting point," he said. "It's a highly motivated group of people and everyone is pulling very much in the same direction right now. That's the sort of momentum we have to keep up and that's why I want to be in the UK and amongst the riders.

"We have to keep improving because we've still a long way to go to think of better medals. We talk of getting the last three to four percent out of the riders and horses and that is the hardest bit."

Duvander will relocate to England with his family in mid-April.



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