Ultimate acknowledgement for Mark Todd

ARISE SIR TODDY: New Zealand equestrian legend Mark Todd has been knighted.
ARISE SIR TODDY: New Zealand equestrian legend Mark Todd has been knighted.

Mark Todd's comeback to three-day eventing has yielded Olympic and world championship bronze medals, a fourth Badminton title, and now the ultimate acknowledgement for his services to the sport - a knighthood.

Sir Mark has no doubt he would be sitting home in New Zealand living a relatively quiet life had he not made a comeback five years ago, having initially retired from the sport after the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Had he not made the comeback, the 56-year-old certainly would not be answering to "Sir Mark', which he must now do after being made a Knights Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (KNZM) in the New Year's Honours.

"I'm very surprised and very honoured, it's quite incredible and I still can't really believe it," the double Olympic champion said from France, where he is skiing with son James.

"It's fortunate I've had a very long career and it's down to a lot of owners, family, a lot of people.

"My family has supported me right the way through and without the Velas from New Zealand Bloodstock (who sponsor Sir Mark and own several of his horses), this comeback and everything wouldn't have happened.

"I owe them all a debt of gratitude."

Sir Mark had only told one person of his gong, his father Norm, who was "delighted". His mother Lenore died in September but she would have been "extremely proud as well."

His knighthood acknowledged equestrian's revival in New Zealand during the past three years, largely on the back of the old timers – Sir Mark and Andrew Nicholson.

"We were very dominant in the 1980s and 1990s and then it dropped off," he said.

"But things have picked up and that's down to a lot of people and I've certainly had so much help from others."

Sir Mark became the oldest Kiwi to win an Olympic medal when he was 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 Olympic 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 in 1999 the event rider of the 20th century by the International Equestrian Federation.

He retired after claiming individual bronze in Sydney 2000 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 would go on to become the oldest person to win Badminton, the most prestigious four-star event in the world, at age 55.

His triumph last year was his fourth title 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 Nicholson became the first New Zealanders to compete in six Olympic Games.

The knighthood caps an excellent year for New Zealand eventing, and Sir Mark said the title would "take a bit of getting used to".

"I imagine I'll get some ribbing when I compete next year but I can live with it."


Fairfax Media