- 24 Sep 1988
- Seoul 1988
Mark Todd’s horse Charisma was written off as too small and too old when they came to defend their three-day eventing title at the 1988 Olympics.
That they were present to repeat the gold of Los Angeles four years previous was something of a minor miracle in itself.
Todd won a nerve-jangling gold in the 1984 Games when American Karen Strives and her mount were a whisker away from a clear round in the decisive show-jumping leg.
In his early career Todd had hoped to be a jockey but opted for eventing when he shot up to 6ft 2. He was desperate for a repeat bid four years later but a dispute with the horse’s owner threatened to derail his ambitions.
The row was resolved in time for the Seoul Games but at 16 years of age many observers said Charisma, affectionately known as Podge by Todd, was past his best and was unlikely to compete for gold against the strong British and West German contingents.
Todd, a dairy farmer by trade who had to sell much of his herd to fund his early career, put in a nerveless exhibition in the dressage at Seoul
Equestrian Park to take the early lead.
Another faultless ride under clear blue skies in the cross-country phase kept Todd clear of the field and only a solid round in the show-jumping stood between the New Zealander and the distinction of a first repeat gold in the event since Dutchman Charles Pahud de Martanges and his horse Marcroix achieved the feat in Los Angeles in 1932.
As it turned out, they knocked over just one fence and Todd had defied the odds to retain his gold from the British riders Ian Stark and Ginny Leng in silver and bronze.
Injury to his horse blighted his attempt at a hat-trick in the 1992 Games in Barcelona, and ironically his late withdrawal due to another equine injury four days before the 1996 Atlanta Games allowed team mate Blythe Tait a late entry to compete, and he took full advantage on board Ready Teddy to win another gold for New Zealand.
Todd retired after claiming bronze with Eye Spy II in Sydney 2000, but was to make an unexpected return in Beijing eight years later when he and his mount Gandalf finished 17th.
Todd, now a British resident, has become synonymous with success at the Badminton Horse Trials, an event he won at the first attempt in 1980. In 2011 he claimed his fourth title there, and few would bet against his chances of yet another Olympic challenge at London next year.