After showing early promise as a ballet dancer, Vicky Latta eventually turned to equestrian and ended up winning two Olympic three-day eventing medals.
Latta’s is an unusual story for a top sportswoman. She attended Diocesan Girls until her fifth form year, when she took up a place at the Royal Ballet School in England. Before she ever made a name for herself in the equestrian world, she was a qualified lawyer, having gained a Bachelor of Law degree from Auckland University.
Latta had always loved horses and owned her first pony when she was 10.
She first represented New Zealand in 1987 in the trans-Tasman Trophy test against Australia, riding Matchpoint. In 1990 she gave away law for a time to devote herself to riding.
Riding Chief, she finished 11th in the individual event at the world championships in Stockholm. She based herself in England and enjoyed several years of success, first with Chief, then with Broadcast News.
The Aucklander was a member of the New Zealand team that won the Olympic silver medal at Barcelona in 1992, and was desperately unlucky to miss out on a medal in the individual section, finishing fourth on Chief.
In the dressage section, Chief incurred 58 points, which placed Latta 19th equal after the first round. Into the cross-country, her 24.8 points moved her into a medal-winning position. On the final day Chief knocked off one rail in the show-jumping, which was just enough to allow team-mate Blyth Tait, who had a clear show-jumping round, to sneak past Latta into the bronze medal position.
It seemed as if Latta would still come away from Barcelona with a gold medal, though, because with only one New Zealand rider, Andrew Nicholson, remaining, the New Zealand team had a seemingly cast-iron lock on first place. However, Nicholson’s horse, Spinning Rhombus, had a nightmare round, knocking down nine rails, which allowed Australia to win the gold and pushed New Zealand – Latta, Tait and Nicholson (Mark Todd was a member of the three-day team but did not win a medal because he did not complete the event) – into the silver medal position.
Latta competed for New Zealand at the 1994 world championships at The Hague and helped New Zealand – Tait, Vaughn Jefferis, Nicholson and Latta – to win a bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics, though her role in those Games was limited after she suffered a serious fall riding Broadcast News during the cross-country section. It was unfortunate because she’d had a good dressage performance, but her fall in the cross-country was so bad that spectators considered she was fortunate not to have broken her neck.
In 1992 and 1996 the New Zealand teams that included Latta were finalists in the Halberg Awards team sections.
Soon after the Atlanta Olympics, Latta sold Broadcast News. But she harnessed her professional and sports skills when managing the New Zealand team that won the world title at Rome in 1998.
Latta returned to law in 1999, specialising in intellectual property and sport. She gained a Masters of Commercial Law degree in 2003.
She served for several years as a member of the New Zealand Olympic Academy.