by Fran Jurga | 6 February 2010 | The Jurga Report at Equisearch.com
American equestrian fans would love to see Mark Todd compete at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in September. But take away the horse; will New Yorkers hand the Kiwi a glass of Gatorade as he passes on foot?
New Zealand Olympic Gold Medalist Mark Todd (left) is among a group of 20 runners from his country who are entered in November's New York Marathon. They will be among the expected 36,000 runners to attempt the grueling but celebrated race that winds through all five of the Big Apple's boroughs before ending in Manhattan's Central Park.
Todd and his mates are running in support of the CatWalk Spinal Cord Injury Trust of New Zealand. Catriona Williams, the quadriplegic founder of the CatWalk trust, was seriously injured in a riding accident in 2002 and formed a trust to fund spinal cord research, which receives no federal funding in her country. Originally, the Trust was formed to support her, but she has turned it into a fundraising effort for spinal injury research. Every five days, someone in New Zealand suffers a spinal cord injury, usually as a result of a sporting mishap.
"This is a great opportunity to do something positive to help this cause," Todd remarked in a press release from the charity. "The equestrian world is extremely conscious of the spinal cord injuries resulting from the sport. I am thrilled to be able to make a difference."
Also among CatWalk's patrons are champion jockey Lance O'Sullivan and eventing champion Zara Phillips of Great Britain.
Williams (shown, right, in her competition days) will be in the race too, attempting to make the distance with a hand-powered cycle. She was formerly one of New Zealand's leading equestrians until she was left a C6-7 tetraplegic after a shattering fall while competing in show jumping.
Video by ING New York Marathon.
Note: Mark Todd was recently named to a squad of 11 New Zealand riders from whom will be chosen that nation's team for the 2012 Olympics in London. Todd is currently living in Britain and has six horses in training. In December he lost his top horse, Gandalf, when the horse was euthanized after being diagnosed with a neurological condition. Will Todd ride in Lexington in September? Never rule him out!
London would be Mark Todd's seventh Olympics; he will be 54 years old. He won individual and gold medals in Los Angeles, team bronze in Seoul, and individual bronze in Sydney. Other accomplishments are two world team champions, three Badminton wins, and five Burghley wins. Todd returned to eventing for the 2008 Olympics after a brief career as a racehorse trainer.
While it is true that Mark Todd was not named to the New Zealand eventing team that will be sent to Kentucky for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games this year, hopefully he will participate in some way.