2016 certainly had its ups and downs for our galloping knight, Sir Mark Todd. Of course it was a good year as he turned 60 in March, which, despite his best efforts to play it down, the media talked about a lot and we wrote an article on it – which was really popular, with some great photos coming out of the archives.
Sir Mark also attended another Olympic Games (his eighth), and so very nearly pulled off another gold medal. Perhaps there were just too many Kiwis riding Leonidas in that first round of show jumping, and shouting at him through their TVs, causing those unusual rails to come crashing down… and with them our hopes for team medals.
Nobody was as disappointed as the man himself. Interviewing him in the mixed zone afterwards was something I will never forget – the normally cool, calm, funny and talkative Sir Mark was so bitterly disappointed and nearly broken; it was very sad to see.
So, all credit to him for making it back out to the arena for the individual show jumping and completing the competition with a clear round, finishing in seventh place.
No consolation for him, but a creditable finish all the same. You can read his comments on this link.
But rather than dwell on what wasn’t a highlight of Sir Mark’s career, let’s take a look back at his fantastic clear round over the very challenging cross-country course. He pulled out a clear round when we really needed it – although it didn’t always go smoothly! Check out our gallery of photos that until now hadn’t seen the light of day since the Olympics!
Of course everyone wanted to know whether he was going to stay in the competition saddle and aim for the Tokyo Olympics, but he has been evasive on that, taking what seems to be a one-day-at-a-time approach… or should that be one-event-at-a-time?
If he keeps up his yoga, you never know what might happen in 2020!
Sir Mark has been spending a bit of time in New Zealand lately, and has done a host of clinics around the country, which have been greatly enjoyed by participants. He had a quick visit to the Puhinui 3-Day event on the Sunday, where he was a big hit with the fans and media alike, and took a course walk around the three-star show jumping.
He also had the chance to pose up for an extraordinary photo opportunity, as all three of his team-mates from the 1988 Seoul Olympics – Andrew Bennie, Margs Carline (nee Knighton) and Tinks Pottinger – were at Puhinui; Andrew and Margs as ground jury members and Tinks as groom for her daughter Amanda. The team won bronze at Seoul, to go with Mark’s second individual gold medal.
During the international competition year, Sir Mark rode at many large events, including the four-star events at Kentucky, Badminton and Burghley. While he didn’t notch up any momentous wins at the top level in 2016, he had consistent placings including fourth at Badminton on Leonidas II, and, riding NZB Campino, was ninth at Burghley and seventh at Kentucky, plus of course his seventh at the Olympics with Leo.
His fourth placing at Badminton was a great result over what was a very testing course. The sequence of photos demonstrating his near-miss during the Badminton cross-country was a hugely popular post, and looking at them again today made me wonder how the hell he stayed on! Check them out again yourself, well worth a look.
Sir Mark has some nice younger horses in his team, including Kiltubrid Rhapsody who had a win at Wellington and was sixth at Boekelo in the CCI3* class. Dusk to Dawn also had good results during the season, including a win at Somerford.
There was some sadness in Sir Mark’s year, though. A horse that he has had a lot to do with, both as a rider and as coach for the Brazilian team, was Grass Valley. Tragically, the gelding broke a fetlock in April while being ridden by Brazilian Gabriel Curry at the Belton Horse Trials. You can read our article on Grass Valley here.
Sir Mark finished the season on a good note, however, as Leonidas II was declared the top horse in the British Eventing rankings for 2016, after being second the year before. Sir Mark was ninth in the British Eventing rider rankings and in the FEI World Eventing Athlete Rankings as at the end of November, he was ranked sixth.
Sir Mark also featured in “Be the Inspiration” videos put out by the NZ Olympic Committee, and he certainly is still the inspiration for equestrian enthusiasts worldwide.
Happy Christmas, Sir Mark, Carolyn and your family.