12 Jul 2016

When Mark Todd struck gold

5:30 pm on 12 July 2016

Golden Moments - Mark Todd's remarkable Olympic career spans four decades but his victory at Los Angeles in 1984 was probably the most dramatic.

Mark Todd with Karen Stives (Silver) and Virginia Holgate-Leng (Bronze) Equestrian Individual - Los Angeles Olympic Games 1984.

Mark Todd flanked by the silver and bronze medallists. Los Angeles Olympic Games 1984. Photo: Photosport

First chosen for the boycotted Moscow Olympics in 1980 Todd had to wait four years to debut at his first Olympics, and what an introduction it was.

Riding Charisma in the Individual Mixed Eventing, he entered the show jumping second behind American Karen Stives.

Charisma, not always the safest of jumpers, went clear and then Todd waited while Stives entered the show jumping arena.

Puffing away on a cigarette, Todd twitched nervously until Stives hit the second-last fence and Todd was the Olympic champion.

Todd and 16-year-old Charisma defended the title magnificently at Seoul in 1988.

When the gold was Todd's, television commentator Brian O'Flaherty injected famously: "That's two for Todd and Todd for two."

Todd was also part of the bronze medal-winning New Zealand three-day eventing team in Seoul.

Mark Todd and Charisma had a hugely successful partnership.

Mark Todd and Charisma had a hugely successful partnership. Photo: Photosport

He had forgettable moments at the Olympics, too, besides the 1980 boycott. In 1992, the year Todd was the New Zealand team flag-bearer, his horse, Welton Greylag, broke down during the competition. He rode Double Take to 37th in the show jumping that year. At Atlanta four years later Kayem was ruled out on medical grounds.

Todd was looking to close his career - or so he thought at the time - at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and brought some cheer to a tough New Zealand campaign when he rode Eyespy II to a bronze medal in the three-day eventing.

His return to the competitive side of his sport before the 2008 Beijing Olympics went surprisingly smoothly, considering he had been out of top competition for so long. At the Olympics, he finished 17th on Gandalf, and helped New Zealand to a fifth placing in the team event.

Todd and fellow veteran Andrew Nicholson became New Zealand's most experienced Olympians at London in 2012 and led the New Zealand three-day eventing team to a bronze medal.

Todd's medal was his fifth at the Olympics, which equals kayaker Ian Ferguson's New Zealand record.

Sir Mark Todd, as he is now, is among New Zealand's most celebrated sportsmen with two Olympic gold and three bronze medals and every other major title available to him in the sport of three-day eventing.

Todd will become New Zealand's most capped Olympian when he competes in Rio in what will be his eighth Olympics.

He was voted the Event Rider of the 20th Century by the International Equestrian Federation in 2000. He is a four-time winner at Badminton and a five-time winner at Burghley.

Todd was a pioneer of three-day eventing in New Zealand. Those who followed him included Olympic medallists and world champions like Tinks Pottinger, Blyth Tait, Vaughn Jefferis, Vicky Latta, Sally Clark, Andrew Nicholson, Jock Paget and Caroline Powell. Jefferis once said: "We all owe a huge debt to Mark Todd. He was the first, and he paved the way for the rest of us."

Todd was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 1993.

Ngā Taonga kōrero