Mark Todd looked like a long shot for the Olympics when he returned to eventing this spring with new ride Gandalf after an eight-year break. But the five-time Olympian built momentum from event to event, finished the season strong with a sixth-placed finish at the Saumur CCI*** (France) in May and earned himself a spot on the eventing squad for New Zealand.
Another seasoned campaigner, Andrew Nicholson, will join Todd on the team with Lord Killinghurst. Like Todd, this will be Nicholson’s sixth Olympics.
The other riders on the New Zealand team are Joy Meyer with Snip, Caroline Powell with Lenamore and Heelan Tompkins with Sugoi.
New Zealand Olympic selector and secretary general, Barry Maister, said the eventing announcement was particularly special. “Mark Todd and Andrew Nicholson are among our finest Olympians and to have athletes attending their sixth Games is testament to the depth of talent we have in New Zealand sport. I think it is a fantastic team and we have high hopes for them.”
Widely regarded as one of the greatest riders of all time, Todd, an Olympic gold medalist at Los Angeles in 1984 and Seoul in 1988, was delighted to get the seal of approval after a late bid for inclusion.
“I’m delighted that we’ve got the nod to go,” he said. “It’s what we set out to do at the beginning and we’re looking forward to being part of the team.”
Nicholson, who is based in Great Britain, participated in his first Olympics in 1984. He’s been a consistent top 10 performer over the years and holds the record for the most number of Badminton CCI**** (England) completions.
Meyer, who also lives in Great Britain, will be making his Olympic debut in Hong Kong, as will Powell, who is based in Scotland. Powell reached a career highlight and the best European performance by a New Zealand rider this season by finishing fourth at Badminton.
Taranaki’s Tompkins made her Olympic debut in Athens four years ago where she was the best-placed of the New Zealand team in seventh, the same place she achieved at the World Equestrian Games in 2006.