Sporting figures honoured

FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 05:00 31/12/2012
Mark Todd
LAWRENCE SMITH/Fairfax NZ

READY TO GO: Mark Todd with his horse Campino at the official inspection.

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Equestrian eventing great and double-Olympic champion Sir Mark Todd has received a third major honours gong, 17 years after he was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) and 28 years after he was made a Member of the same order (MBE).

As of today the 56-year-old is Sir Mark Todd, having been made a Knights Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (KNZM) in the New Year's Honours for services to equestrian.

Sir Mark became the oldest Kiwi to win an Olympic medal when part of the New Zealand three-day eventing team which claimed bronze at the London Olympics this year, equalling the world record for the longest gap between first and last Olympic medals - 28 years. He won the first of his five medals aboard his wonderful horse Charisma in Los Angeles 1984.

After receiving his CBE in 1995, which followed individual Olympic gold medals in 1984 and 1988, and team bronze in 1988, Sir Mark went on to be named the event rider of the 20th century in 1999 by the International Equestrian Federation.

He claimed a fourth Olympic medal, individual bronze, at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, but not before a British tabloid newspaper sting had made him headline news for all the wrong reasons.

The Sunday Mirror alleged Sir Mark had used cocaine with a homosexual partner, and debate raged as to whether or not Sir Mark should be selected for Sydney. He has never commented in any depth on the allegations.

He retired after Sydney and trained race horses for several years before making a comeback to eventing for the Beijing Olympics.

He was part of the bronze medal-winning New Zealand at the 2010 world championships and went on to become the oldest person to win Badminton in England, the most prestigious four-star event in the world, at age 55. His triumph last year was his fourth at Badminton, to go alongside five Burghley victories and two world team titles.

When he competed at the London Olympics this year, Sir Mark, who is the first New Zealander to be knighted for services to equestrian, and teammate Andrew Nicholson became the first New Zealanders to compete in six Olympic Games.

Sir Mark is not the only 2012 Olympian to be recognised in the honours, with first-time gold medallists Nathan Cohen, Joseph Sullivan, Eric Murray, Hamish Bond (all rowing), Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie (sailing) and Lisa Carrington (kayaking) all made Members of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) following New Zealand's record-equalling haul of 13 medals, including six gold, from the London Games.

Fellow London gold medallists, shot putter Valerie Adams (ONZM) and rower Mahe Drysdale (MNZM), have previously been recognised by the honours system.

New Zealand's triumphant Paralympic gold medallists have been acknowledged at the same level, with swimmer Mary Fisher and cyclist Phillipa Gray also becoming MNZM. Cameron Leslie and triple gold medallist Sophie Pascoe (both MNZM) have previously been recognised, having won gold medals in Beijing four years ago.

Other sports figures to be made MNZM include former long-serving New Zealand women's footballer Maia Jackman, decorated runner Ron Robertson who has won a total of 31 gold medals at the world masters athletics championships and set 15 masters world records, and former rugby coach and national selector Peter Thorburn.

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Former high profile rugby league coach Graham Lowe, for services to the community, and Dr Rod Syme, for services to athletics and science, have both been made Officers of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM), while former New Zealand Cricket president and current International Cricket Council president Alan Isaac has been a made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM), for services to cricket and business.

- Fairfax Media

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