Interview: Sir Mark Todd still has Tokyo Olympics in mind

Source: Xinhua| 2019-11-23 20:16:12|Editor: Shi Yinglun
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By Wang Zijiang

AUCKLAND, New Zealand, Nov. 23 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand's Eventing legend Sir Mark Todd said in a recent interview with Xinhua that he will still keep eyes on the Tokyo Olympic Games although he has retired from his sport.

The 63-year-old, who competed in seven Olympic Games and won two individual gold medals and three bronzes, announced his retirement in July after helping New Zealand win the Nations Cup at the Camphire International Horse Trials in Ireland.

"I won't go to Tokyo unless I have a role in the New Zealand team," he told Xinhua at the EQUITANA Auckland. "But I will be watching the competition because my horse McClaren will be there."

McClaren competed with Todd at last year's World Equestrian Games but sustained an injury early this year and is now with former teammate Jonelle Price.

"It was a fantastic little horse," Todd said. "I am hoping that they have a good partnership and they can go to the Olympic Games. That will give me added interest in (Tokyo). I will be very happy to watch what they will do. Maybe I am a little bit jealous."

Todd, voted Rider of the 20th Century by the FEI, had planned to compete in Tokyo for his eighth Olympics but finally called it quits a year before it kicks off.

"I just did not have the motivation to put that work in. Yes, I can go there and maybe finish top ten. But to win it, you have to put that much effort. I just don't want to do that every day. It is very time consuming as well. There are other things I want to do."

"I have originally planned to go to Tokyo, but at the beginning of this year, I had the opportunity to getting back to racing again. When this opportunity came up, as soon as that happened, Eventing did not have the same appeal."

Since retiring, he has been focused on training his 10 racehorses. He gets up at six every day, and starts to work with the first horse at seven.

"Hopefully I can get all those work finished by midday. And then there are always other things to do. Sometimes I still do some teaching for Eventing. It seems I never have enough time. In the afternoon, all the horses come back again and I need to make sure they are OK."

Todd is back in New Zealand for the second biennial EQUITANA Auckland, where his illustrious career was celebrated with a 'this is your life' evening on Thursday.

"It always amazed me how well people received me here," he said. "I haven't spent time in New Zealand in the last 40 years. But I am still a New Zealander. We like our sport heroes. "

He said EQUITANA Auckland, which is mainly focused on education, is great for his country.

"We don't have a huge history and industry around horses. In Europe they have a long history of breeding sport horses. We don't have that here. So I think the idea is great to create education to try to encourage more people to do it better."

Todd, who also won four Badminton titles and five Burghley crowns, has always been inspirational for Chinese eventer Alex Hua Tian, who became the youngest rider in history to compete in the Olympic Games when he was 18 in 2008.

Hua Tian and his idol sat side by side on an oak tree before the 2008 Olympics and that image got immediately famous in the world's most populous country.

"That picture was taken at the Badminton horse show," Todd said. "Alex was based in England. I don't know him really well but I see him around a lot."

Todd said that Eventing has become more popular over the years and 40 years ago, it was hard to imagine that China would have qualified for the Olympic Games as a team.

"I think it was brilliant," he said. "You have a team."

Hua Tian's Olympic debut turned out to be a surprise defeat as he fell in the cross country competition and was disqualified. After narrowly missing the London Olympic Games, he finished eighth in Rio.

"You cannot go and ride every time," Todd said. "It is like life. You have highs and lows. You need to cope with the time when things aren't going right. I have a lot of that. Give yourself 24 hours, feel sorry for yourself and you just get back on it and keep going again."

He said one of his worst lows was at Badminton when his horse, who won with him at Burghley on the previous year, slipped the fence and fell with a broken leg.

"That was one of the worst moments. You know that they are your friend, your partner. You are just helpless when something like that happens."

The other bad moment came at the Rio Olympic Games, when he had four fences down and cost the medal hope for the team.

"You feel bad for yourself," he said. "You let the whole country down, you let the owners down, you let the other teammates down. I was the last one to jump. For me, it was really a low point."

But in general, he has no regrets about his career.

"I don't have the desire to do anything more in Eventing. I have had an amazing career. I have been very fortunate to win as much as I have won.

"My challenge is in the racing. I'd like to have a good horse to win good races in Europe."