The New Zealand three-day eventing team overcame a rough start to their day to settle into second place after today’s testing cross-country course.
That means doing into tomorrow’s showjumping phase they are right on the heels of leaders Australia. The Australians have incurred 150.30 penalty points, New Zealand 154.8, France 161 and the fancied German team 172.8.
In the individual standings Mark Todd, already a five-time Olympic medallist, is in fourth position, Clarke Johnstone is sixth equal and Jonelle Price is 13th.
After beginning the day in sixth place, the New Zealanders turned in three top-class cross-country rounds on one of the toughest courses imaginable and raced up the leaderboard.
The day did not begin well when Tim Price’s Ringwood Sky Boy fell and had to withdraw. It was a pity because the horse had looked very comfortable until then.
“He was going brilliantly and felt so good,” Price said. “I thought, ‘Game on’. I thought he was on the right horse to be sat on this day. I am so gutted.”
The New Zealand team bounced back superbly, though with excellent rides by Todd, Johnstone and Jonelle Price.
Riding Leonidas II, Todd went clear and incurred only two time faults.
“I had instructions from the team to go safe and clear,” Todd said. “The horse was brilliant all the way around.
“I am over the moon to have finished and gone well. It is a 3-star course with 4-star technicality. The fences come at you thick and fast.
Todd, who is 60 and is at his eighth Olympics, said “Leo” was a very fit horse and was economical all the way round.
“He conserved his energy. He is so brave and honest.
“The team needed me to get round. When you are travelling at 570m/minute, the fences come at you thick and fast. There is no room for error – the horses have to stay really focused.”
Todd’s ride had bystanders shaking their heads in admiration.
Gabrielle Pochhammer, the breeder of Leonidas II, said Todd had got the horse as a six-year-old and had built him up beautifully. “He rides like God himself,” Pochhammer said.
Next up for New Zealand was Clarke Johnstone, who was a little disappointed with his dressage score. He made up for it with an excellent cross-country round, going clear on Balmoral Sensation with just 4.8 time penalties.
“He was absolutely sensational,” Johnstone said. “I am thrilled with him. Everything went to plan and he finished full of running.
“It’s really intense out there – there are a lot of jumping efforts. Sometimes in these high-pressure courses you can feel you are just getting by by the skin of your teeth, but not today.”
The final New Zealand rider was Jonelle Price, who had been disappointed with her dressage performance. Again, she shrugged off those feelings today and said later everything had gone to plan. She rode Faerie Dianimo to a clear round and incurred 10.35 time penalties.
"It has been an exciting day of sport that saw some of the favourites fall by the wayside," she said.
"We were a bit of a glum old bunch last night wondering how we would dig ourselves out of our hole. Kiwi attitude got us there."
Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games Mark Todd Clarke Johnstone Jonelle Price Tim Price Equestrian - Eventing