NEW Zealand has won its first medal of the London Olympics with the eventing team taking bronze.
Veterans Mark Todd and Andrew Nicholson, together with the younger Jock Paget held their nerve while the Swedes wilted in a tense finish as New Zealand came from behind to claim the bronze medal and their first teams medal in 16 years.
For 56-year-old Todd, it was his fifth Olympic medal, 28 years after his first, a gold in the individual competition in Los Angeles.
Todd told Fairfax NZ he was exhausted after he helped secure the bronze.
“As I said all along [Campino] is a young horse with not a lot of experience and he did brilliantly in the first two phases of the competition.
“He was very tired coming into the arena and we had one [fence] down early and maybe we were lucky not to knock one more down. Although I am disappointed to not win gold, it is brilliant to have won a medal with the team.”
Todd, who missed out on a medal in the individual competition, refused to rule out competing in four years time in Brazil.
“With a young horse it takes a while to adjust to that pressure and learn to bounce back. He has only done the one three-star three-day before here and has never had to work as hard as he did yesterday.
“I said all along the Olympics came a year too soon and that probably showed today.”
For Nicholson, who is 50, it was his third team Olympic medal, to go with a silver in 1992 and bronze four years later.
Caroline Powell and debutants Paget and Jonelle Richards are first-time medallists.
New Zealand won team bronze in 1988, silver in 1992 and bronze in 1996.
Todd’s dressage set the team up on day one and Nicholson’s cross-country ride did likewise on day two, while Paget, 28, a former bricklayer born in Northland but raised in Sydney, provided crucial consistency for the third counting score.
Fourth heading into the showjumping, Paget and Clifton Promise put the early pressure back on Sweden by knocking only one rail to Niklas Lindback’s two as the Kiwis moved up to third.
Nicholson and Nereo rammed home the advantage with a beautiful double clear round, as he did in the cross-country, to move ahead of Todd in the individual standings, while Swede Ludvig Svennerstal dropped two rails.
That gave Todd and Campino a two-rail cushion to secure bronze, but the great horseman cut it fine.
Germany (133.7) produced a masterclass to easily win gold while clear rounds from Mary King and Tina Cook saw Britain (138.2) win silver from New Zealand (144.4).