By Dr Micheal Warren
The New Zealand Olympic Team continues to grow after the men’s women’s rugby sevens team formally qualified for next year’s event in Tokyo. Our sailors and canoeists have been achieving at the highest level, winning world cup events.
While most shy away from making medal predictions as they are difficult to forecast, Gracenote Sports have recently released a projection of medal winners for Tokyo 2020. The virtual medal table predicts New Zealand to win 9 gold, 3 silver, and 5 bronze for 17 medals in total. While it is still early in the Olympic cycle and Tokyo still more than a year away, this shows a high number of New Zealanders are achieving on the world stage.
New Zealand at the Olympic Games: Equestrian Overview
New Zealand first sent a horse and rider to the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. Adrian White competed in the Individual Jumping competition where he finished in 23rd place. Four years later in Tokyo, New Zealand sent a jumping team and finished in 10th place. In the individual competition, Graeme Hansen was New Zealand’s best finisher in 23rd place.
New Zealand next sent a horse and rider to the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal where Joe Yorke finished in equal 30th in the jumping competition.
Mark Todd was selected to compete at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow but did not compete due to the boycott. However, Todd would compete four years later in Los Angeles beginning what would be an illustrious Olympic career.
In 1984 Todd competed alongside Mary Hamilton, Andrew Bennie and Andrew Nicholson to finish 5th in the team event. Todd was sitting in 5th after the dressage portion of the competition and had a clear cross-country and jumping portion on his horse Charisma to win gold in the individual event. Todd’s gold in Los Angeles marked the beginning of a successful run of medal performances at the Olympic Games for New Zealand.
However, Todd and Charisma weren’t done and were back in competition four years later in Seoul. Todd and Charisma were completely dominant becoming the first horse and rider since 1932 to defend their Olympic title. New Zealand also won bronze in the team event.
Todd also competed in the jumping competition, finishing the best of the New Zealanders in 30th place. The New Zealand jumping team finished in 12th place.
In Barcelona in 1992, Todd was given the honour of carrying the New Zealand flag into the Opening Ceremony. Blyth Tait was the best of the New Zealanders in the individual event, winning bronze, just ahead of Vikki Latta. The team were on track to win gold until Andrew Nicholson and his horse Spinning Rhombus spun out of control dropping 9 rails in a forgettable jumping performance. Despite the performance from Nicholson, New Zealand still won the silver medal behind Australia.
New Zealand enjoyed more medal success at the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta. First up the eventing team won bronze behind Australia and the United States. In the individual event, Blyth Tait on Reddy Teddy and Sally Clark on Squirrel Hill won gold and silver. The cross-country portion of the competition was crucial and both were superb. They were catapulted into the lead and both had clear runs in the show-jumping for a one-two finish.
There were high hopes for New Zealand at the Sydney 2000 games. Blyth Tai was flagbearer and led New Zealand into the Opening Ceremony. However, those high hopes did not eventuate. New Zealand had some terrible luck. In the team's event, New Zealand was on track for a bronze medal after the cross country. However, two horses failed the mandatory vet inspection ruling New Zealand out of the running who finished in eighth place. There was better luck I the individual event and Todd was back on the dias winning bronze behind David O’Connor of the United States and Andrew Hoy of Australia.
New Zealand failed to win any medals in equestrian in 2004 and 2004. The team finished in 5th place at both games. In 2004 Daniel Meech achieved New Zealand’s best ever individual result in jumping in finishing in 13th place.
New Zealand was back on the dias in 2012 with Jonelle Richards, Jonathan Paget, Caroline Powell, Andrew Nicholson and Mark Todd winning bronze. Individually Nicholson narrowly missed the bronze medal, finishing in fourth. In winning bronze, Todd equalled the Olympic record for the longest gap between the first and final Olympic medal – 28 years!
Todd was back again for his seventh Olympic Games in Rio in 2016 and was part of the New Zealand team that narrowly missed the bronze medal in finishing fourth. Individually Clark Johnstone finished in 6th place and Todd in 7th.
New Zealand has already qualified a team to compete in Tokyo next year. Tim Price is currently world number one and his wife Jonelle will be pushing hard for selection. Also, don’t rule out Todd to compete in his eighth Olympic Games. The rider of the 20th century is still competitive well into the 21st century. Don’t count out New Zealand returning to the dias