Mark Todd is among the most celebrated New Zealand sportsmen, with two Olympic gold medals and numerous other honours. He was named to compete in six successive Olympic Games, though he missed the first games, in Moscow in 1980, because of the American-led boycott.
Mark was a pioneer of three-day eventing in New Zealand and, in 1978, was part of New Zealand’s first three-day eventing team to contest a world championship. Those who followed him included Olympic medalists and world champions like Tinks Pottinger, Blyth Tait, Vaughn Jefferis, Vicky Latta, Sally Clark and Andrew Nicholson. 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.”
In his first attempt at Badminton in 1980, riding Southern Comfort, Todd was 45th after the dressage, but was one of only three inside the time limit on the cross-country. Going into the final day he was third. When Lucinda Prior-Palmer and Helen Butler came unstuck during the show jumping, Todd was Badminton champion. It was his first major victory in what was to become a glittering 20-year career at the top. The highest peaks were his two Olympic gold medals on Charisma, in 1984 & 1988. And he remains the only person to win back-to-back individual Olympic titles since World War II.
Mark went on to win Badminton again in 1994, 1996 and more recently in 2011 whilst also achieving a record five wins at Burghley in 1987, 1990, 1991, 1997 and 1999. He has twice helped New Zealand teams to win world titles (1990 & 1998), was inducted in to the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 1993, won the Supreme Halberg Award and was named New Zealand's Sportsperson of the Year in 1988 plus he was voted FEI Event Rider of the 20th Century by the International Equestrian Federation in 2000. He also was proud to carry New Zealand's flag at the Opening Ceremony of the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain and was made an MBE [Member of the British Empire] in 1984 and a CBE [Commander of the British Empire] in 1995.
Mark retired from international competition following the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and returned to live in New Zealand. Based in his home town of Cambridge, he continued to breed horses, with successes in the Wellington Cup and New Zealand Oaks, and concentrate on several business ventures. Never far from the sport of Eventing he acted as coach for the NZ Olympic Eventing team at Athens in 2004 and continued to compete in eventing at a local level and to support the sport in general.
It was then in 2008, with sponsorship from New Zealand Bloodstock, that he decided to return to the sport on the international stage, his target to represent New Zealand at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He purchased a 10-year old grey called Gandalf, “He was available to be bought, so I flew up to Auckland, tried him out, had him vetted and it all happened very quickly”. It was then in May 2008 that Mark & Gandalf qualified for Beijing at Saumar in France. He put up one of the best performances of the New Zealand team, which finished fifth, managing the second best Kiwi performance, coming in 17th overall.
In February 2009, Mark announced he was making a full return to the sport and has subsequently made appearances at Badminton and Burghley with numerous other outing at 2* and 3* (winning at Somerley, Houghton and Hartpury). At the end of 2011, Mark stood 8th in the British Eventing Top 100 Riders in 2011. In 2012, Mark followed up his Olympic return in Beijing with selection for Team New Zealand at the 2012 Olympics in London where New Zealand claimed a team Bronze, Mark finishing 12th overall in the individual competition.
You can read more about Mark in his autobiography, So Far So Good (1998) and all about his return to the sport in his second autobiography, Second Chance (2012). He has also had several other books published including “Charisma” (1989), “One Day Eventing”, “Mark Todd’s Cross-Country Handbook” (1995) and “Novice Eventing with Mark Todd” (1996). Plus he has also produced a series of training videos.
'did you know' questions & answers
|How did you start riding?||My parents weren’t horsy but my grandfather had horses on his farm and he borrowed a neighbour’s pony for me to ride|
|What made you choose Eventing?||I was working with show jumpers and had bought a horse called Top Hunter. He got as far as he could jumping so I tried him in a few events and he did well. We ended up competing in the World Championships.|
|Did you have any particular horse/s that really helped you make it?||All of them have helped me, good and bad, but I’d have to say that Charisma was ‘the one’.|
|What made you decide to come back to the professional scene?||It was a dare, made over a glass of wine, and it became a personal challenge.|
|What has been your most satisfying equestrian moment and why?||Firstly winning my 2nd Olympic Gold on Charisma who was 16 at the time and secondly Winning Badminton in 2011; my fourth title and some 30 years after my first win there, was very special.|
|If you could give one piece of advice, what would it be?||Work hard, play hard|
|How do you fit everything into your daily routine?||I’m not very organised so I rely on my very good back up team.|
|What are your favourite hobbies or pastimes?||Snow skiing and boating.|
|What would you be doing if you were not an Event rider?||Farming I think.|
|What is your favourite food?||I try to eat healthy with lots of fresh vegetables and fish but I am not that big on fruit and I try to avoid chocolate and never have fizzy drinks or McDonalds!|
|What’s the most tragic music CD in your collection?||The soundtrack to South Pacific.|
|What's your favourite movie/TV programme?||I don’t really get time to watch much TV or movies – but I like a really good comedy and watching Boston Legal.|
|What’s was your worst injury?||Broken ribs, punctured lung and a broken jaw when I was about 15.|
|Do you have any good luck charms or rituals?||I don’t like wearing new gear on the horses for xc, have to rub it in the dirt first.|
|Do you have any other fun facts or trivia?||I fell asleep before the start of the xc at Badminton and nearly missed it!|