Sir Mark ready for 'ribbing' at equestrian competitions

COMEBACK KNIGHT: Sir Mark Todd on his mount Campino during the London Olympic Games.
COMEBACK KNIGHT: Sir Mark Todd on his mount Campino during the London Olympic Games.

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

Todd 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 2000 Sydney Olympics. Had he not made the comeback, the 56-year-old certainly would not be answering to "Sir Mark" after being made a Knights Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit 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 Todd and own several of his horses], this comeback and everything wouldn't have happened.

"I owe them all a debt of gratitude."

Todd 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 - Todd 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."

Todd became the oldest Kiwi to win an Olympic medal when he was part of the New Zealand three-day eventing team that claimed bronze at the London Olympics, 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 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, Todd 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 team 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 Badminton title, to go alongside five Burghley victories and two world team titles.

When he competed at the Olympics this year, Todd, 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 Todd 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 NZ

Waikato Times