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Equestrianism: Todd the `senior` flagbearer at Rio

New Zealand riding legend Mark Todd is the grizzled greying-haired poster boy for the hardy bunch of sixty-somethings competing in the Rio equestrian arena.

Last Updated: Friday, August 5, 2016 - 07:33

Rio de Janeiro: New Zealand riding legend Mark Todd is the grizzled greying-haired poster boy for the hardy bunch of sixty-somethings competing in the Rio equestrian arena starting Saturday.

Todd, shunning convention which would have his generation buying rocking horses for their grandchildren rather than riding the real thing, is appearing in his seventh Olympics.

Elected Rider of the 20th Century by the sport`s rulers the 60-year-old competes at Rio`s Deodoro equestrian centre 32 years after his Olympic debut in Los Angeles, where he won the first of his two golds.

"I`m actually riding against children of my contemporaries," said the much-admired Kiwi cheerfully of his longevity.

"The wonderful thing about the Olympic Games is you just see people of all shapes and sizes and ages.

"There is no particular mould of an athlete. We all do different sports which require different things. It`s wonderful to see."

While getting on a bit Todd is by no means the oldest on the New Zealand team.

That honour falls to Julie Brougham, who remarkably at 62-years young is embracing her first ever Games.

She enters the record books as her country`s oldest ever Olympian.

"It`s quite amazing, I`ve created a record and I haven`t done anything," she shrugged, appearing alongside Todd at a press conference.

"I`m actually a judge in New Zealand, and I`ve judged this young man (looking over at her teammate, Jonathan Paget) beside me in dressage."

She took part in her first competition at the age of seven. Over five decades later she is finally jumping into the Olympic ring.

"I`ve been a little slow getting to the Olympics, but it`s really been because I haven`t before had a good enough horse.

"Unfortunately, in New Zealand most of us don`t have a million euros to go and buy a top grand prix horse, so we tend to make our own horses. 

"It takes about six years to do that and quite often you`ll find that it`s just not quite international calibre, so you start the whole process again.

"But this time I`ve got a good enough horse to be here and I`m very proud of it."

Todd is wearing two hats in Rio, competing for his country and acting as adviser to the Brazilians.
The Rio hosts` dressage team are all under 25 - well under half his age.

While the 2016 hosts are relying on youth, the same cannot be said of Great Britain with some of their evergreen equestrians arriving in Rio on free bus passes.

John Whitaker, 60, and his brother Michael, just four years younger, team up with 58-year-old Nick Skelton, who was part of the team gold winning team in London four years ago.

The Brits are positively youthful though compared to 75-year-old Hiroshi Hoketsu, who competed in 2012 but was robbed of the chance of becoming the oldest competitor in Olympic history in Rio. It was not because of anything awry with his ageless body but because his mount was not fully fit.

AFP
First Published: Friday, August 5, 2016 - 07:33

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