Monday, 27 June 2016

Sir Mark Todd named in New Zealand equestrian team for Rio Olympic Games

Sir Mark Todd will become New Zealand's oldest ever Olympic athlete when he lines up at the Rio Olympics this year.

Todd, 60, was one of five riders named in the New Zealand equestrian team for the Rio Games.

He will ride alongside Jock Paget, Jonelle Price and Clarke Johnstone in the eventing team, while Palmerston North's Julie Brougham is selected in the dressage event.

The selection confirms that Andrew Nicholson has not been picked for the team after having a falling out with the Equestrian Sports New Zealand.

The oldest Kiwi Olympian has been William Edgar Swinnerton, who was 56 when he competed in the sailing at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956, coincidentally the year Todd was born.

Todd said he was pleased to have been selected in what will be his eighth Olympic Games, looking to win his sixth Olympic medal in the process.

"I love what I'm doing," Todd said. "I'm fortunate that my body has held up to it well and I keep myself in good shape.

"I've got two good horses, but like I say, I just love doing it. It keeps me going."

Todd won individual gold medals at the Los Angeles (1984) and Seoul (1988) Olympics, while also winning an individual bronze in 1988, and team eventing bronze medals in Sydney (2000) and London (2012).

The New Zealand team is looking to win an individual and team medal in Rio, and Todd said the team had a good chance at achieving that given their strength in depth.

"The strength in the team this year is that we don't have any weak link," Todd said.

"We've got four horses and riders that are capable of finishing at the top of any top class, international field, and are all capable on the day of winning an individual medal.

"A lot of it will come down to who can pull out there best performance at the competition. We know the competition we face there is really tough, so we'll have to bring our A-game to the event."

New Zealand Olympic Committee chief executive Kereyn Smith praised the experience in the team, and had special mention for Todd.

"I would like to congratulate Sir Mark Todd on continuing to raise the bar ahead of his eighth Olympic Games appearance and wish every one of the athletes selected today all the very best in Rio."

Johnstone didn't make the London Olympics in 2012 after his horse was injured. He said to make the 2016 squad was exciting.

"To go to Rio and try to win a medal for New Zealand has been my number one focus for the last four years, so to be one step closer again is really, really exciting. I can't wait," Johnstone said.

Brougham, competing in the dressage, is just the third Kiwi to do so, following Kallista Field (Sydney, 2000) and Louisa Hill (Athens, 2004 and London, 2012).

She headed to Europe in March to focus on her Olympic build-up.

"I am very much looking forward to being part of the New Zealand team at Rio," Brougham said.

"Now we can focus 100 per cent on the preparation and training for the games."

Equestrian Sports New Zealand high performance director Sarah Dalziell-Clout said competition was tight for the Olympic places.

She praised the standards set by the riders in competing for places in the squad.

"It has been an incredibly difficult process for selectors for both dressage and eventing," she said.

"But when selection is difficult, it's a positive sign for New Zealand's equestrian sport for the future. There were a lot of solid performances at the highest level from our eventers over the past 18 months, with the majority of riders having successful performances on multiple horses.

"For dressage, it has been an exciting time as new levels have been reached by our two high performance combinations (Brougham and John Thompson).

"With such a hard-fought contest for this single place, it was disappointing to not be able to have selected them both," she said.

Dalziell-Clout said it was "unfortunate" not to have Nicholson in the mix in 2016. She said he failed to meet some of the pre-requirements for making the squad.

"It's always disappointing to have a great performance of the past not in the mix," she said, "but I think we're looking strong with the riders we've got there.

"There are a number of pre-requirements. A huge number of procedural requirements the riders are required to do in order to be made eligible for the Olympics, including various athlete agreements.

"Andrew didn't meet a number of those, at his own option, despite us following them up."

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