Published Tuesday 31 July 2012

The New Zealand three-day eventing team did their country proud at Greenwich Park today.
After a day of drama and sensations in the cross-country section, New Zealand find themselves with a good chance of scoring medals in both the individual and teams events.
Mark Todd, shrugging off his 56 years, was superb aboard the inexperienced Campino.
Todd had a clear round and finished less than a second outside the limit, incurring a time penalty of 0.40 points.
Going into tomorrow’s showjumping phase, he is third with 39.50 points, just a fraction behind the German Ingrid Klimke and Sara Ostholt Algotsson of Sweden, who are both on 39.30 points.
If Todd had not incurred his tiny time penalty today, he would be in the gold medal position. As it is now, he needs to go clear in the showjumping and hope those ahead of him knock off at least one rail.
Supporting Todd staunchly was his long-time team-mate Andrew Nicholson, who turned in a clear round inside the allotted time on Nereo and moved up to ninth place on 45 points. If he hadn’t had bad luck with the rain during the first day’s dressage, Nicholson could well be leading the competition now.
The third highest New Zealander – remembering the top three scores count in the team total – is Jock Paget, riding Clifton Promise. In testing conditions, Paget rose to the occasion by producing a clear round and incurring just 4.80 penalty points. He is 14th at present, on 48.90 points.
The other New Zealanders also produced good efforts.
Caroline Powell, riding Lenamore, had a clear round and incurred a penalty of 1.60 points, leaving her 24th equal on 53.80 points.
And Jonelle Richards, riding Flintstar, had a clear round, but was over the time limit, and had six points added to her total. She is now 31st on 62.70 points.
The individual competition is extremely tight, with only one rail between the first seven riders.
In the teams event, New Zealand are fourth on 131.40 points, but are desperately close to second-placed Great Britain (130.20 points) and third-placed Sweden (131.40 points). Germany lead with 124.70 points and have a rail to spare.
Todd needed all his experience today. He was the last of the 74 riders to compete and with the competition running very late, it was a time for steely nerves and a calm temperament.
Knowing how tight the points situation was, he pushed Campino hard and took risks.
His cause was not helped by the fact that he had to ride most of the course with loose reins after they came undone at the sixth of the 28 fences.
"The buckle came undone and they were hanging loose in my hands. I just had to gather them up and hope like hell I didn't lose one, because if I had I would've been in serious trouble,” he said.
Campino was beginning to wilt near the end of the round, but Todd showed what a champion horseman he is, shepherding his horse home.
He joked later that Campino was tiring so badly he felt like he might have had to carry the horse over the final couple of fences.
Todd said it was slightly annoying not to be in the gold medal position in the individual event, and to be just out of the top three in the teams section. However, he said he was encouraged by the fact that the New Zealand horses were all good showjumpers, whereas some of the other leading contenders were not of the same quality as jumpers.
Todd is seeking to round off an incredible Olympic career. Already he has won two individual golds and a bronze and a team bronze.
Tomorrow will be a real showjumping test. After the first round of jumping, the teams medals will be decided, and the top 25 individuals will then do a second showjumping round to sort out the individual placings.
There was extra interest in the cross-country today because the Queen’s grand-daughter, Zara Phillips, was competing for Great Britain. Riding High Kingdom, she went clear and was well inside the time limit. She is now 10th equal in the individual competition and looms as a likely medallist in the teams section.
She was watched today by a cluster of royals, including her mother, Princess Anne, who rode at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.