Today sets another milestone in New Zealand’s sporting history as the New Zealand Olympic Committee confirms a five-strong equestrian team and one dressage rider for the Rio Olympic Games at a formal selection announcement in the United Kingdom.
Included in this crop of selected athletes is New Zealand’s highest capped Olympian Sir Mark Todd, who currently has five Olympic medals to his name. Todd is now set to compete at his eighth Olympic Games.
Joining him in Rio and rounding out the eventing team will be his bronze medal-winning Olympic team-mates from London 2012, Jonelle Price and Jock Paget, along with Clarke Johnstone, with whom Todd won a team bronze at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
Backing up the strong eventing team will be Tim Price, who has been selected as the travelling reserve.
Flying the flag in the dressage event is Palmerston North’s Julie Brougham, selected for her first Olympic Games.
New Zealand Olympic Committee CEO Kereyn Smith, speaking from Auckland, noted the incredibly strong line up and depth of experience across the team.
“To have athletes selected who can draw on multiple Olympic medal-winning experiences from previous campaigns is a powerful thing. Not only for these athletes, but for the entire 2016 Olympic Games Team.
“I would like to congratulate Sir Mark Todd on continuing to raise the bar ahead of his eighth Olympic Games appearance and wish every one of the athletes selected today all the very best in Rio,” she said.
Speaking from Europe, Todd was thrilled to be selected and is focused on delivering another strong Olympic challenge for New Zealand.
“I am very happy with my horses at the moment and the strong team that has been named.
“I am looking forward to the competition,” he said.
Johnstone, who was forced to bow out of contention leading in to the London Games after his horse was injured, is also over the moon with news of his selection.
“To go to Rio and try to win a medal for New Zealand has been my number one focus for the last four years, so to be one step closer again is really, really exciting. I can’t wait,” he said.
Julie Brougham from Palmerston North will compete in the dressage for New Zealand and is just the third Kiwi to do so. Ahead of her have been Kallista Field at Sydney (2000) and Louisa Hill at Athens (2004) and London (2012).
Brougham departed for Europe in March to focus on her Olympic build-up and is excited to be joining the team for Rio.
“I am very much looking forward to being part of the New Zealand team at Rio,” she said.
“Now we can focus 100% on the preparation and training for the games.”
Equestrian Sports New Zealand High Performance Director Sarah Dalziell-Clout noted the tight competition for these Olympic spots and commended the high standard set by all riders vying for a place in Rio.
“It has been an incredibly difficult process for selectors for both dressage and eventing,” she said.
“But when selection is difficult, it’s a positive sign for New Zealand’s equestrian sport for the future. There were a lot of solid performances at the highest level from our eventers over the past 18 months, with the majority of riders having successful performances on multiple horses.
“For dressage, it has been an exciting time as new levels have been reached by our two high performance combinations (Brougham and John Thompson). With such a hard-fought contest for this single place, it was disappointing to not be able to have selected them both,” she said.
Today’s equestrian selections takes the New Zealand Olympic Team to 109 athletes confirmed for Rio so far. The number of athletes is expected to swell in the coming weeks, with weightlifting, rugby sevens, women’s hockey, and women’s football all preparing for selection confirmations.
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NB. Sir Mark Todd was also selected into the team to attend the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, however New Zealand did not participate. Also, at 60 years of age, he will become New Zealand's most senior Olympian.