New Zealand has qualified an eventing team for the Tokyo Olympic Games today after finishing seventh at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games in North Carolina.
Tim Price and Cekatinka were the best of the Kiwis in eighth place after taking an uncharacteristic rail in the showjumping to finish on 31.2 penalty points. His wife Jonelle and Classic Moet added eight faults to their tally to finish in 19thon 38, with the final team-member Sir Mark Todd on McClaren adding four to end the day on 73. Individual rider Dan Jocelyn and Grovine de Reve finished on 54 after adding a disappointing eight faults in the showjumping.
It was a nail-biting end to the eventing competition, coming right down to the last rider before the individual medals were decided. Overnight leader Ingrid Klimke (GER) and SAP Hale Bob OLD had the last rail down costing her the gold and leaving her in bronze position. Just before her, Rosalind Canter (GBR) and Allstar B had held her cool to go clear and secure a double-header for the Brits – both team and individual golds. Canter actually produced Price’s Cekatinka through to 2*.
There was less than a rail between New Zealand qualifying for Tokyo or not, and they finished just ahead of the United States to secure the berth.
Tim Price’s rail mid-course cost him a silver medal. ‘I am a little bit frustrated,” he said. “She is a great jumper and jumped her socks off everywhere else. She has had very few rails in her career. It is a pretty demanding track out there.”
He questioned whether that had been done to make up for the eventers having a forced rest day when they would normally have had the showjumping, but Hurricane Florence put a stop to that.
“It has been a bit of a roller coaster for us (the New Zealand team). It was a bit disappointing the way it unfolded for the Kiwis but it is great news we have qualified. I am actually really happy with my mare I am very excited for her future. It (the rail) didn’t cost me the gold medal, so that’s ok.”
Eventing chef d’equipe Graeme Thom was very pleased to have the team secure the qualification. He extended thanks to the support of the horses’ owners, High Performance Sport New Zealand, the coaching staff, the “first class” grooms, the horse health team and the “devoted and competitive” athletes. He also congratulated the winning nations and individuals.
“They all set a high bar and were rewarded for earning their success and we tip our hats to them all,” he said.
Jonelle Price said her Badminton victor Classic Moet had barely touched the second rail to fall. “I didn’t even realise I had it down. It is a little bit her technique though,” she said.
While the Olympic qualification wasn’t the objective for the Kiwis at WEG, she said it would take the pressure off for the next 12 months. She still disagreed with the decision to postpone competition yesterday. “There was nothing spectacular about it (the weather) but that was the decision they made and we just had to get on with it.”
Sir Mark Todd said his young horse would take a lot away from the week. “His eyes were out on stalks in that arena,” he said. “He is a fabulous jumper and was a little bit overawed. I have never had to ride him quite so hard.”
It had been a moment’s distraction for McClaren that had resulted in the rail. “I came here with a relatively inexperienced but talented horse and it hasn’t quite gone the way we had hoped . . . and nor for the team, but you just have to pick yourself up, learn from it and go forward.”
Dan Jocelyn, who rode as an individual, was gutted to have two of the last three fences down aboard Grovine de Reve. “He is a great jumper and has jumped well all season so it is a bit of a shame,” he said.
Jocelyn would look to bring the horse back to the United States next year for their first 4* competition.
Next up for the Kiwis are the (pure) showjumpers – Daniel Meech on Fine, Sam McIntosh on Check In 2, Brue Goodin aboard Backatorps Danny V and Sharn Wordley with Casper – with the team competition starting on Wednesday.
The horse details:
McClaren – owned by David and Katherine Thomson
Cekatinka – owned by Joanne Pullan
Classic Moet – owned by Trisha Rickards and Jonelle Price
Grovine de Reve – owned by Therese Miller, Jo Preston-Hunt Philip Hunt and Dan Jocelyn
Backatorps Danny V – owned by Backatorp Ryder AB
Fine – owned by AB Kastanjegarden and Daniel Meech
Check In 2 – owned by Takapoto Equestrian
Casper – owned by The Sky Group
By Diana Dobson, NZ team media liaison
Photo by Libby Law Photography