Veterans Andrew Nicholson and Mark Todd are bitterly disappointed they fell short of an individual medal but believe the future of New Zealand three-day eventing is bright after the Kiwis claimed Olympic team bronze at Greenwich Park.
Nicholson recovered from the first day dressage debacle – he was 21st after a weather delay stymied his test – to finish fourth overall after a brilliant cross-country and two good showjumping rounds today on his crack horse Nereo.
Todd, who was third heading into the showjumping and had designs of a medal, faded to finish 12th after his young horse Campino ran out of steam, knocking rails in both rounds.
Young gun Jock Paget climbed to 10th overall on Clifton Promise with two solid showjumping rounds, the three men combining to lead New Zealand to bronze behind Germany and Britain.
Caroline Powell and Jonelle Richards also receive medals despite recording non-counting scores.
The Germans completed the double, as they did in Beijing, with world champion Michael Jung winning the individual title after Swede Sara Algotsson Ostholt knocked the final rail off with gold just 10m away.
“I could allow myself to be disappointed, I guess, that I did not win an individual medal but I have to be pleased with what I got, which to me is almost as important, and the horse performed,” said Todd, 56, who now has two Olympic golds and three bronze medals from a stellar career.
“It would have been very disappointing to have to come speak to you with no medal around our necks so we are thrilled. This is just about the best team I have been with and I have been with a few so to win this bronze meal is incredible.”
Nicholson, who has now won three team Olympic medals since 1992, said the medal was the most satisfying of his three because of his contribution and he believed New Zealand were on the cusp of another productive era.
“It’s very important we’ve got those younger ones coming along, the likes of Jock, Jonelle, Clarke Johnstone and Lucy Jackson, they keep the likes of me and Toddy competitive. We can’t just sit back and have an easy ride and rock up to the Olympics.”
World No 2 Nicholson, who turns 51 tomorrow, plans to campaign for Rio and Todd would not rule another tilt out, either.
“We’ve got the basis of a really strong team here,” Todd said.
“If I feel I’m still enthusiastic and I can still be competitive and a useful member of the team I might be tempted to keep going.
“We are a very small country and a very small percentage do this so to be where we are in the world is incredible.”
The fact Todd’s nine-year-old horse Campino, who wasn’t his first choice for London, could be in peak form for Rio might well keep in interested.
“What this horse has done has to be put in context, he would be most inexperienced horse here at the competition,” Todd said.
“Less than 12 months ago he was in his first advanced competition. I’m not surprised he was tired today. I’m disappointed for him as much as anything he could not show how good a jumper he is.”
Todd joins the Olympic history books, yet again. The oldest of the 185 Kiwis in London, he joins Hungarian fencer Aladar Gerevich, who won six consecutive sabre golds from 1932 to 1960, in having a gap of 28 years between their first and last medals.
For perspective, that’s how long Paget has been alive.
Todd’s dressage set the team up on the first day and Nicholson’s cross-country ride did likewise on day two, while Paget, 28, a former bricklayer born in Northland but raised in Sydney, provided crucial consistency for the third counting score.
Fourth heading into the showjumping, Paget and Clifton Promise poured the early pressure on Sweden by knocking just the one rail to Niklas Lindback’s two as the Kiwis moved up to third.
Nicholson and Nereo rammed home the advantage with a beautiful double clear round, as he did in the cross-country, to move ahead of Todd in the individual standings, while Swede Ludvig Svennerstal dropped two rails.
That gave Todd and Campino a two-rail cushion to secure bronze, but the great horseman cut it fine.
Germany (133.7) produced a masterclass to easily win gold while clear rounds from Mary King and Tina Cook saw Britain (138.2) win silver from New Zealand (144.4).
Zara Phillips, the Queen’s granddaughter, joined her father, Captain Mark Phillips, who won team gold in 1972 and silver in 1998, as an Olympic medallist.
- © Fairfax NZ News