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Blyth Tait in bid for Olympic comeback

March 3, 2011

Former Olympic and World Champion eventer Blyth Tait is coming out of retirement to aim for the 2012 games in London.

Blyth Tait and Ready Teddy at the 2004 Olympic Games.
Winner of gold medals at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and the 1990 (Stockholm) and 1998 (Rome) World Championships, Tait is following in the footsteps of equally illustrious compatriot Mark Todd, who made a comeback in 2007 after eight years out of the limelight.

Equal with Todd as New Zealand's most decorated equestrian, Tait, 49, held both the Olympic and world titles at the same time during a stellar decade for Kiwi eventers during the 1990s. He was the New Zealand flagbearer at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

"My plan is to campaign and compete in the UK this season and hope that I can get amongst the performances that warrant some consideration for the (New Zealand) team for 2012," Tait said.

"The real drawcard for me is to represent New Zealand at the Olympics but I appreciate that I've had some time out of the sport, therefore I need to get back into some semblance of form for that to be a reality."

Todd, a double Olympic gold medalist, made a successful comeback to make the New Zealand team for the 2008 Olympics and 2010 World Championships, where he pocketed a team bronze.

Retiring after the 2004 Athens Olympics, Tait returned to New Zealand after being based in England throughout his 15-year career. He has remained involved in the sport, conducting regular coaching clinics while also filling the role of team manager for the New Zealand eventing team at the 2006 World Championships and 2008 Olympic Games.

Blyth's bio

Olympic Games
1996 Atlanta
    individual gold, team bronze
1992 Barcelona
    individual bronze, team silver

World Equestrian Games
1998 Rome
    individual gold, team gold
1990 Stockholm
    individual gold, team gold

London provided the initial carrot as Tait searched New Zealand and the Northern Hemisphere for the right horse.

"I have well established contacts in the UK from the past which will make things, like sponsorship, a little easier," he said.

Tait has secured a three-quarter share in New Zealand thoroughbred Santos, a 12-year-old bay gelding by Grosvenor, successfully campaigned in recent seasons by Jenna Mahoney, who will keep a quarter share in the horse. Santos and Tait head to Britain later this month.

In February 2010, Mahoney and Santos were named in New Zealand's 2012 Olympic squad. They won the advanced class at Arran Station in November 2009, and were seventh at the four-star Australian International 3 Day Event in 2009.

"He's a horse that's had great mileage with Jenna and he's proven at four star level," Tait said. "I didn't want anything that was high risk because I haven't got time to waste. I need to get back into full swing and competing straight away and Santos is the sort of horse that I feel comfortable about doing that with."

Jenna Mahoney and Santos.
Much of Tait's success has been with thoroughbreds, most notably his 1996 Olympic individual gold medal horse Ready Teddy, with whom he also won world individual and team titles in Rome in 1998. Tait won the four-star Kentucky Three-Day-Event in 2000 on Welton Envoy, a former racehorse. On another ex-racehorse, Chesterfield, Tait won team bronze at the 1996 Olympics and also won the four-star Burghley Horse Trials in 1998. Chesterfield died of a suspected heart attack before the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000.

Tait still has Ready Teddy, who is now 23.

Tait's last official start in Britain was in September of 2004, when he rode Eze (TB) to eighth in the four-star class at Burghley.

Tait is not worried about his length of time away from the sport and the time it may take to get up to speed.

"It's all relative," he said. "The sport's always evolving and I think it's about placing yourself into the environment as it is. That doesn't concern me at all.

Blyth Tait and Ready Teddy.
"I appreciate things have changed. The formats have changed and the accent's changed towards the dressage having a little bit more influence. I appreciate that and I understand that but it doesn't concern me."

Once in the UK, Tait has set his major target of competing at Burghley in September, but will work his way through lower end competitions to start with.

"I'm confident, otherwise I don't think I'd be doing it," he said.

"I want another challenge. I've been retired for seven years and if I don't do it now, I'm never going to be able to do it, so I'm taking the bull by the horns and giving it a go.

"I have to be really committed for 16 months," he said. "If things go horribly wrong, I would review then as to whether I carry on with the whole thing or whether I come back (home)."



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