Eventing great Todd hangs up his boots - GulfToday

Eventing great Todd hangs up his boots

Horseracing

New Zealand’s Mark Todd on Leonidas II competing in the eventing’s individual cross country of the equestrian competition at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Agence France-Presse

Wellington: Mark Todd, one of the great horsemen in equestrian sports history, announced his retirement from eventing on Sunday after a distinguished career that included two Olympic gold medals and appearances at seven Games.

Todd, 63, said he was leaving the sport to concentrate on training racehorses.

The New Zealand eventing legend bowed out in familiar winning fashion.

The 63-year-old double Olympic individual eventing champion made the surprise announcement at the Camphire International Horse Trials in Ireland where he was part of the New Zealand team that won the Nations Cup there.

Todd, who was voted the International Equestrian Federation’s (FEI) ‘Rider of the 20th Century’, has been one of New Zealand’s great athletes for four decades.

He can boast a remarkable catalogue of victories, including two individual eventing gold medals in the 1984 Los Angeles and 1988 Seoul Olympics, four Badminton titles and five Burghley crowns.

“I had been thinking about it for some time,” said Todd. “The opportunity came up at the end of last year with the racing and I can’t keep going (with eventing) forever.

“I had initially thought I may stay on for one more Olympic Games but since I got back into the racing my attention has been taken away from the eventing and I was finding it harder and harder to focus on the eventing.”

Todd has competed for New Zealand at seven Olympic Games, winning five medals in total, including two Games where he rode in both showjumping and eventing. He was also on two gold medal-winning teams at the World Equestrian Games.

Todd’s magical ability to get the best out of his horses has always left his rivals in awe. One of his great rivals, Briton Karen Dixon, once said: “He could make a donkey jump 10 feet!” while his New Zealand team mate Andrew Nicholson said: “Mark can ride anything – he could go cross-country on a dairy cow!”

Equestrian Sports New Zealand high performance eventing manager Graeme Thom broke the news at a prize-giving ceremony on Sunday, prompting gasps of surprise from the assembled audience.

Todd admitted his competitive fire for eventing had gone. “Unless you are 110 percent focussed and driven towards that goal, you won’t succeed... and I certainly wasn’t,” he said.

Todd, who had retired once before following the 2000 Olympics only to return eight years later to great success, also added: “This was the best thing. I have been here once before but there will be no comeback this time.”

Todd had originally planned to wait until the end of the season to retire but had a change of heart.

“Once I decided I was going to retire, I just wanted to finish sooner rather than later.

“To end up on the winning (Nations Cup) team has just been an added bonus.”

Equestrian Sports New Zealand chief executive Dana Kirkpatrick paid tribute to Todd, saying: “No-one has given more to equestrian sport than Sir Mark and the legacy he leaves is an inspiration to not just equestrians but to all New Zealanders.