Rio: opposition buzz

How do they rate their own chances? Their team's chance? Who is the hottest competitor? Who do they most want to beat?

The team (Image: Libby Law)
The New Zealand Olympic equestrian team – four eventers and Julie Brougham (left) for dressage (Image: Libby Law)

We all have theories on who will win the medals at the Olympics and, of course, we all know that anything can happen in an eventing competition. We asked each of our eventing team members who they rated as the ones to beat and how they rated their own prospects.

New Zealand's first equestrian medal, won in 1984
New Zealand’s first equestrian medal, won in 1984 by Sir Mark Todd and Charisma

Do you believe you and/or the team can win a medal?

Sir Mark Todd: “At the moment, the competition in the world is really, really strong. There are some very good horses and riders out there. It is definitely going to be won on the dressage because there are so many good horses and riders in the jumping, although in this case we do have two rounds of show jumping. My horses are well capable. If we can perform as well as we possibly can, I think we will be well capable of an individual medal. Team-wise, we are all strong riders and all have good horses with good performances in the last 12 months. That is a strength in our team – there is no weak link. In other competitions, we have gone in and you have maybe thought the fourth member was not as strong, but we are a very even lot this year, and hopefully it will work in our favour.”

Jonelle Price: “My chances rely a bit on what frame of mind we can get Faerie Dianimo there in. When she is at her best she is absolutely brilliant but it is quite a small window of opportunity to have her at that brilliant best. If we can do that, then she can really foot it with the best in the world. From a team point of view, if we could all ride and have a result near our very best individually, then as a team we are very strong. Everyone is certainly very capable of that result, and it is just about producing it on that given day. That is where the Germans have been so good for the last few years: they really do bring their best on that day. At Aachen last year, that was probably the first time we have done something close to that and I think we were only six marks adrift of the Germans. That was encouraging and shows that it is possible – but it is just about nailing it on the day.”

Jock Paget: “We have a very strong team. We have four strong proven combinations and, if we all do what we are capable of doing, then we have a good chance to win. As an individual, it is going to depend a bit on where you get placed in the team. Everyone’s priority is to be there for the team first and as an individual second. Obviously, a later draw will help your chances individually, so that would be nice, but with my horse, he could actually go anywhere. He is quite good like that. I would be happy to go anywhere.”

Clarke Johnstone: I think we both have a good chance if everything goes well on the day. There are so many variables with travelling horses, but he’s a beautiful horse and can do great dressage; we are trying to see where we can get a few more marks there. He’s very reliable cross-country and a very good show jumper. And our team is really strong. We have four great horses and four great riders, we’re all really competitive and we’ve all got each others’ backs.”

It was Germany one, Australia two and France three in the FEI Nations Cup (Image: Libby Law)
It was Germany one, Australia two and France three in the FEI Nations Cup at Houghton but we hope this isn’t the Olympic result!  (Image: Libby Law)

Who are the ones to beat?

Jock Paget: “The Australians and the French will quietly surprise some people this year.”

Clarke Johnstone: “The Germans, obviously, are the ones to beat. But I think we should be able to give them a real run for their money. France is looking very strong, England is always strong although a little harder to pick, Australia is very strong. Individually, any of the Germans.”

Sir Mark Todd: “The Germans are the main opposition. Obviously, they have got three very strong riders and their fourth rider is pretty useful as well. But having said that, Britain is always quite strong, although I don’t think they are quite as strong as they have been in the past. The French have been looking very good of late. The Aussies will probably field a pretty strong team so it certainly is going to be a good competition.”

Jonelle Price: “The Germans are definitely the ones to beat but the French are – well I don’t think they are even the dark horse – they are the other real contenders. They have a new generation of younger guys who are very good jockeys.”

Jonelle Price did a lovely test on Faerie Dianimo to sit in second place after this first phase. (Image: Libby Law)
Jonelle Price can get a lovely test out of Faerie Dianimo if the mare is in the right mindset (Image: Libby Law)

Who do you personally most want to beat?

Clarke Johnstone: “Everybody!”

Sir Mark Todd:  “Everybody else. Nobody in particular. I don’t have a grudge against any other nation or rider.”

Jonelle Price:  “I focus on my own performance and try to achieve that 30-something in the dressage, it has to be at least mid-30’s, and if I can do that then I think we can get close to finishing on it. The two show jump rounds are always influential at the Olympics and that is probably why Faerie Dianimo is my preference this year; she is a very good jumper and she is capable of jumping two very good rounds. There is still a lot to do after dressage.”

Jock Paget: “Everyone.”