We've been talking about the London 2012 Olympics for so long that it is a wake-up call to realize that they are almost here. We are 33 days into 2012. The Olympics are only six months away.
Consider yourselves on notice: Olympics Fever is about to hit! And what sport could possibly be more exciting than eventing?
This news will make the calendar dance on your wall (or on your screen): New Zealand and Australia finetuned their 2012 international eventing squads last week. These are the riders from each nation who will receive coaching and preparation through the spring season as the Olympics approach. Presumably, the odds are quite high that these same lists of riders will be the talent pool for London for each country.
But how did the Downunder equestrian federations ever choose? Both nations' depth in eventing would easily allow them to field two teams for the eventing--and both would have a chance at the podium. The selection committees had a lot of great riders and horses to keep an eye on--all over the world--in 2011 before choosing this list.
Here's the high-performance choice lineup from New Zealand by rider name and horse names, as provided by Equstrian Sports New Zealand:
- Andrew Nicholson (Waikato/UK) Nereo, Avebury, Mr Cruise?Control, Armada;
- Clarke Johnstone (Otago/UK) Orient Express;
- Jonathan Paget (Muriwai/UK) Clifton Promise,?Clifton Lush;
- Mark Todd (Waikato/UK) NZB Grass Valley, Major Milestone, NZB Land Vision.
New Zealand media liaison Diana Dobson quipped, "All have been solid in their performances and would need a disaster to not be named for London."
He may have been solid in eventing performance, but New Zealand Olympic legend Mark Todd was recently injured in confrontation with a bull elephant on a trip to Africa recently. He still made the team, however.
What a great team! But it doesn't include one of my favorite riders, Caroline Powell and her amazing 2010 Burghley winner, Lenamore, who is now 20 years old but still going strong.
Here's what Team New Zealand had to say about Caroline:
"Caroline Powell, a member of the bronze medal-winning team at the 2010 World Champioships, has slipped off the?2012 squad. She is without her stars Lenamore, (Burghley winner 2009), and Mac MacDonald, (Caroline's 2010 WEG mount), but has a good team in the making and been named on the 2014 squad."
But the ever-optimistic Kiwis added a PS to their announcement:
"Lenamore is not entirely out of the mix either, with a decision on his inclusion in the squad expected after?Badminton International Horse Trials in May."
Meanwhile, across the Tasman Sea, the Australian Equestrian Team also announced its elite squad for 2012. Another eventing powerhouse speaks! Australia's list of eventing contenders includes: (rider/horse/owner)
Australia's 2012 Eventing National Elite Squad
Australia's 2012 Eventing National Elite Holding Squad
Most of the Aussie and Kiwi riders are British-based and will only have to head down the road from their British training bases to compete at London.
One name that is not on the Australian list is Lucinda Fredericks. However, the Team Fredericks newsletter contains a note that they hope that will change in the months to come, with Headley Britannica returning to competition: "Lucinda is delighted to confirm that Brit (who has never been retired)?is in incredible form and will be back to eventing this year in the hope of qualifying for the Olympics.? Her first big main event will be at Fontainbleau."
The Aussies are looking to London with their fingers crossed: the last time I checked, Australia still needs to officially qualify for London. The eventing world was shocked in September when the Japanese team qualified ahead of Australia.
Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, New Zealand, Sweden and the USA have secured the opportunity to compete in team eventing.
According to the London 2012 web site, the total number of teams competing at the 2012 Olympic Games will be confirmed on 1 March when additional composite teams in eventing, made up of three individuals from the same nation, will be finalized through the FEI Olympic Riders Ranking.
You can't help but notice that Clayton Fredericks is on the Aussie list with three horses. Here's what he had to say on the Team Fredericks Facebook page this week:
"I am thrilled at the news of the three horses in the Olympic Squad and it also looks likely I will be the first Australian eventer to qualify for the London Olympics for 2012 due to being the highest ranked individual in the Olympic Rankings.
"My prospects for the next Olympics with the strength of my team looks solid and I also have some other horses to qualify this year including Ben Along Time and Brookleigh (owned by Nikki Brooks).
"I would like to thank all the support that has be given from special Individuals, EA,WAIS, ASC and the AOC and reassure all my supporters I am working hard to do my part in turning the Silver team medal from 2008 into double Gold in London."
Nations qualifying to send individual riders will also be confirmed on March 1st and riders then have until June 17th to achieve the necessary minimum eligibility criteria to compete at London 2012.
The Opening Ceremony of the Games of the XXX Olympiad on July 27th will be followed by 12 days of equestrian competition and, for the first time in Olympic history, the final equestrian event will be the Dressage Grand Prix Freestyle to Music held on August 9, 2012.
To learn more: Olympic eventing individual rider rankings via the FEI (pdf file)
Thanks to Diana Dobson of Equestrian Sports New Zealand for her assistance, as always.