Equestrian's funding boost crucial for Rio gold

FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 05:00 20/12/2012
Andrew Nicholson
Getty Images
RIDING HIGH: With a 125 per cent increase in funding, Equestrian Sports New Zealand CEO Jim Ellis believes the Kiwis are a real chance for gold in Rio.

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As he relaxes in Hawke's Bay with a glass of pinot over the Christmas period, Equestrian Sports New Zealand chief executive Jim Ellis will cut a satisfied figure.

His sport is in good shape - both on the international and domestic scene - and when he returns to work in the new year, he'll have an additional $4 million at his disposal for the four years leading into the Rio Olympics.

Eventing is the biggest winner from the High Performance Sport New Zealand funding handouts, jumping from $3.2 million over the four years leading up to the London Olympics, to $7.2 million for the current four-year cycle - a whopping increase of 125 per cent.

Ellis insists every dollar is necessary to achieve the ultimate goal, team gold in Rio.

The biggest expenditure next year will be on New Zealand's participation on the new FEI Nations Cup, a team competition. New Zealand is to send a team to all five events in 2013 as they prepare for the 2014 world championships.

"Rather than just competing as a team at the Aachen festival (in Germany), we will compete five times, and in order to do that we have to get the entire support team together each time, so that is a significant increase in costs," Ellis said.

ESNZ will also increase its spending on coaching, particularly enhancing its dressage training, traditionally the weakest of the three disciplines for New Zealand.

There will be "natural increases" in costs to their programme in the UK, where all leading New Zealand riders - and national coach Eric Duvander - are based.

Crucially, they have re-signed the highly rated Duvander and ESNZ's New Zealand based high performance director Sarah Harris through until the 2016 Olympics, while a part-time England-based administrator will be employed in a new position to help ease logistical issues that arise from the time difference between New Zealand and England.

In addition, ESNZ have been given $275,000 in performance enhancement grants (PEGs) to distribute in 2013 but, unlike many other sports, the money does not simply go to athletes to help with living expenses.

"They must prove the expense is being used to directly enhance their performance before the money is released," Ellis said.

"We will put a certain amount towards individual performance plan (IPP) investment, and the PEGs money would get put into that pot, though it will primarily be targeted toward the top-end riders."

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Duvander and Harris will meet with the top riders next month and discuss IPPs for 2013, and what level of investment will be made. That is then reviewed quarterly.

"It could be that rider X gets a lot more than rider Y, depending on their respective needs.

"We believe we can win a gold medal in the team event at Rio if all five of the starting combinations are capable of winning an individual medal, and in order to get to that point we have got to be in a better place than we were in London.

"It's about how we target funding to individual riders which is specific to them and what they need, and what horses they need, to ensure they are capable of finishing in the medals.

"What that means for a Clarke (Johnstone) or Jock (Paget) or Jonelle (Richards) will be different to what it means for Andrew (Nicholson) and slightly different again for Mark (Todd)."

Ellis put their success at the funding table down to several indicators of potential future success; the Olympic bronze medal, team and individual bronze (Nicholson) at the 2010 world championships, and the fact three riders are currently ranked in the world's top six, with Nicholson No 1, Paget No 4 and Todd No 6.

But he expressed disappointment that showjumping and dressage, the most popular equestrian disciplines on a world scale, and para-equestrian were all denied funding.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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