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NZ names strong Olympic squad lineup

April 6, 2011

New Zealand has named riders in its 2012 squads for all three Olympic equestrian disciplines, with hopes that the country could be represented across the board in London.

Andrew Nicholson and Mr Cruise Control. © Al Crook

Mark Todd and Grass Valley. © Jan Milne

Caroline Powell and Mac Macdonald © Mike Bain

Squads have been named in eventing, show jumping and dressage with an eye to both the 2012 London Olympics and 2014 World Equestrian Games.

Equestrian Sports New Zealand High Performance Director Sarah Harris said it was the first time in several years that it was felt that there were riders from all three Olympic disciplines genuinely able to compete at the Olympics.

At the head of the charge is the 2010 World Equestrian Games Eventing bronze medal-winning team of Andrew Nicholson, Mark Todd, Caroline Powell and Clarke Johnstone, with seventh placed individual Jonathan Paget also in the mix.

Last year it was Paget and Johnstone who forced their way into the 2010 World Games team after notching excellent results, and Blyth Tait, who recently came out of retirement, has made no secret of his desires to once again win gold for New Zealand.

"The Eventing 2012 Squad is strong and we've opted to keep them together as a team to ensure they drive each other's performances," Harris said. "It's been a while since we've had numbers like this on the ground this far out."

The in-form Katie McVean, who rode for New Zealand at the World Games last year, is the only rider named for showjumping.

Harris is confident McVean will have a good shot at qualifying an individual place for London at the qualifying competition in Aachen, Germany in July and may be joined by other combinations in the coming months.

"It's very early in the European and American seasons, so I think we will see some more combinations added in the months to come."

Missing from the line-up is high-ranking Samantha McIntosh who is leaving her Europe base to shift back to New Zealand this month. At this stage she does not have any top-level horses in squad contention.

Two of the dressage riders named have strong eventing links. Penny Castle coaches Paget and fellow squad member Lizzie Brown, while Vanessa Way works closely with Johnstone.

Both Way and Castle head to Australia later this month to further their chances to move up to a 2012 squad.

"We've flagged our three dressage combinations as 2014 World Games potentials but they could step up and get to London," Harris said. "They need to be in the top 30 in the world to make the grade."

Criteria had been tough, and the high performance management challenged all disciplines in an effort to ensure anyone named on a squad was there for good reason.

"It will bode well for the future that we've been this tough. They've all stepped up, though, and it's an exciting time that we have performance pathways like this through to major events."



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