Tait triumphs on Ready Teddy

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The Independent Online
Blyth Tait, a consummate horseman, yesterday added an individual gold medal to the team's bronze he won for New Zealand on Wednesday.

Tait entered the showjumping stadium on Ready Teddy under enormous pressure. Sally Clark and Squirrel Hill, lying less than a single mistake behind, had just jumped a faultless clear round - one of only four in the competition.

Poles had been falling all round this maximum sized course, with the British riders Mary King on King William (eight fences down) and Chris Hunnable (six down) causing the greatest devastation. They finished 12th and 10th.

The chestnut New Zealand-bred Ready Teddy, only an eight-year-old, had jumped clear at his only three-star event at Pratoni in Italy earlier this year, which he won from Tait's more experienced ride, Aspyring.

It was not much to instill confidence, and Tait himself had expressed the fear that he had used up too much energy on the cross-country. We need not have worried, but it was an extremely nerve-racking two minutes. Ready Teddy rose to the task, clear without time faults, to give Tait the gold medal that he was so unlucky to miss out on with Messiah in Barcelona.

Sally Clark, 38, also from New Zealand but living in North Carolina in the United States, was a worthy second, having made huge progress since her 53rd placing in the World Equestrian Games at The Hague two years ago. America's Kerry Milliken hit one showjump with Out and About, but held on to the bronze medal.

Afterwards, Tait, though obviously overjoyed and excited to have Ready Teddy, his great hope for the future, exceed all expectations, admitted that he would like to see the Olympic three-day event restored to a single competition.

"Splitting the team and individual takes the best out of both," he said. Asked if this pleased him more than his World Championship win in 1990, he said: "I was naive then. I thought it was kind of easy. Now I know how much goes into it and the efforts made by others to get you there."

Tait, like most of the New Zealand, Australian and American team riders, compete regularly in England. "It's the best domestic circuit in the world and a necessity. We have plenty of eventing in New Zealand, but not the competition. Just ourselves."

Britain can only reflect sadly that our country, that has given so much to our rivals, has little to show for itself.