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Kiwis impressed with London Olympic venue

July 5, 2011

by Lulu Kyriacou

The New Zealand contingent at the London Olympic Equestrian Test Event are a little off the pace, but team stalwarts Mark Todd and Andrew Nicholson both had good things to say about the venue.

Mark Todd (NZ) and Campino. © Lulu Kyriacou
In true Olympic style, the leaderboard after the dressage reads like an international eventing who's-who, with Britain's Piggy French in the lead on DHI Topper, with Australia's Clayton Fredericks and Bendigo second, ahead of Michael Jung and River of Joy. In fourth is Sweden's Sara Algotsson Ostholt on Mrs Medicott.

Todd was a little disappointed with the 58.1 scored by NZB Campino which left them in 24th spot.

"Yes, I was disappointed with the test, he is usually much better than that but he has only been eventing for a year and that is horses," Mark said.

"As for the venue, well, it has been really good to come and see for ourselves. We have all heard so many things, and so far we have been impressed. The stables are nice and the surfaces good, although the terrain for the cross-country might be a little cramped next year when the course is longer.

"I have to say, though, that it is a real shame that more people will not be able to come and watch in person. They said maybe 35,000, which is not many compared to the 100,000 plus that turn up every year for Badminton - especially when so many people in this country are fans.

"As for the protests about using a World Heritage Centre, well somebody will always complain whatever you do but they should be proud that we are being allowed to use this fantastic park for a few weeks when they have it the rest of the time. It is still an odd feeling being here though, sort of like the Olympics but not like them."

Of the cross-country course, Todd said: "I hesitate to say that it looks straightforward, but it looks a nice course. The terrain will be the interesting bit. The course will be tight, but it was like that in Hong Kong (for the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008) so it will be fine and a good test." Andrew Nicholson was also pleased to get a sneak preview. "Even though the course will be significantly different because this contest is nearly two star levels lower than the Games proper, you can assess the terrain and the feel of the place and see which horse might suit it best.

"I am lucky enough to have several to choose from!"

Nicholson was asked what he thought of the course, having vociferously criticised course designer Sue Benson on more than one occasion.

"To be fair, I only arrived this morning so I haven't looked at the course but Sue has had long enough to get a good feel for the terrain and has lots of advice from other people involved with the event so she shouldn't have gone wrong. All that input should make sure there are no problems.

"I like the positioning of the main arena, though, sometimes these are a bit 'busy' but this looked more relaxed. I agree it is a shame more people can't come but you have to think of the security issues I suppose.

"And yes, I definitely want an individual medal, I might get to Rio as I am not as old as Mark, but realistically, this is my last shout, it's do or die. As for being here, well, Olympics are always special but possibly not as special as wearing the New Zealand flag, at any time!"

The cross country begins today at 11am local time.



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