Look out, Rio. Equestrian Sports New Zealand (ESNZ) drew a line in the sand on the beaches of Brazil's famous city today by naming an eventing high performance squad that won't need a GPS to find their way. They're pre-programmed to get there, and medal their way back home 3.5 years from now.
On the back of the Kiwis' bronze medal winning team effort at the 2012 London Olympics, the discipline has received increased funding from Sport New Zealand, and a renewed confidence that the high performance program--which for 2012 dictated that the entire team had to move to Great Britain--is on the right track again, for 2016.
ESNZ High Performance Director Sarah Harris said today that there is no time for complacency, and that the stringently-selected squads reflect only those combinations who have the potential to produce an individual podium result at the Rio Olympics.
Leading the way is the world's number one ranked rider Andrew Nicholson, who has six horses on the squad, along with world number four ranked Jonathan Paget with three horses and world number six ranked Sir Mark Todd who is also on with three horses.
Rounding out the squad are London Olympic team-mates Caroline Powell and Jonelle Richards, along with 2010 World Equestrian Games team-member Clarke Johnstone and London Olympic reserve Lucy Jackson.
Sadly, for the horse's many fans around the world, Powell's double-Olympic horse Lenamore is not on the squad. The selectors are not considering him for Rio, but the 20-year-old will be likely to be competing at Badminton this year.
Four real up-and-coming riders have been named on the high performance eventing accelerator squad, in Jesse Campbell, Joe Waldron, Lizzie Brown and Tim Price.
"The squads reflect a realignment of our programthrough to Rio," says Harris.. "We want to be continually pushing to be better with a world-leading program. We are recognized as such, but we are always looking to improve anything that leads to better results."
Harris said that she sees the accelerator program as vital to future of eventing:?"People will be added to that to ensure sustainability over time. We need to be identifying young talent - whether that be rider or horse - and working with them to accelerate their performances so they have the ability to impact at Rio."
Both squads can be changed at any time.
"It's great to have such depth of good horsepower," says Harris. "Lining up for London, we were a bit thin on the ground for second and third horses, but by Rio we are going to be really well-placed. This is an exciting time for New Zealand equestrian."
The international eventing season kicks off with the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event in April, followed by the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials. The World Equestrian Games in France in 2014 will be the first pinnacle event, for New Zealand and the entire eventing world.
The New Zealand?High Performance Eventing Squad Riders and Their Horses:
- Andrew Nicholson with Nereo (owned by Deborah Sellar, Avebury (owned by Rosemary and mark Barlow),
- Andrew Nicholson with Mr Cruise Control (owned by Nicky and Robin Salmon),
- Andrew Nicholson with?Quimbo (owned by Deborah Sellar),
- Andrew Nicholson with?Calico Joe (owned by In Mind Syndicate),
- Andrew Nicholson with?Qwanza (owned by Rosemary and Mark Barlow),
- Jonathan Paget with Clifton Promise (owned by Frances Stead and Russell Hall),
- Jonathan Paget with?Clifton Lush (owned by Frances Stead and Lucy Allison),
- Jonathan Paget with?Bullet Proof (owned by Joe and Alex Giannamore),
- Mark Todd with NZB Campino (owned by Peter and Pam Vela),
- Mark Todd with?Leonidas (owned by Peter and Di Brunsden),
- Mark Todd with?NZB Land Vision (owned by Peter and Pam Vela),
- Caroline Powell with Boston Two Tip (owned by Alan Bell),
- Caroline Powell with?Onwards and Upwards (owned by Mary and Cameron Crawford),
- Jonelle Richards with Mere Oak (owned by Lucy Sangster),
- Clarke Johnstone with Orient Express (owned by Johnstone Family),
- Clarke Johnstone with?Incognito (owned by Johnstone Family),
- Lucy Jackson with Kilcoltrim Ambassador (owned by Sprout Syndicate),
- Lucy Jackson with?Willy Do (owned by Mark, Gillian and Charlotte Greenlees).
The New Zealand High Performance Eventing Accelerator Squad:
- Jesse Campbell, Joe Waldron, Lizzie Brown and Tim Price.