Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Olympics: Equestrian team's rowdy reception

Mark Todd signs autographs as the New Zealand Bronze medal winning Equestrian Team at the 2012 London Olympics arrive back in New Zealand at the Auckland International Airport. Photo / NZ Herald
Mark Todd signs autographs as the New Zealand Bronze medal winning Equestrian Team at the 2012 London Olympics arrive back in New Zealand at the Auckland International Airport. Photo / NZ Herald

New Zealand's Olympic medal-winning equestrian team arrived home to a rapturous reception in Auckland this morning.

The team of Caroline Powell, Jonathan Paget, Mark Todd, Andrew Nicholson and Jonelle Richards won bronze medals in the the three-day team event in London.

All but Nicholson touched down at Auckland International Airport about 9am.

For Todd, the medal meant he joined canoeists Ian Ferguson and Paul MacDonald as this country's most decorated Olympian.

"New Zealand's been so supportive and the people have been so great so it's good for us to get back here and meet some people and show our appreciation," he told APNZ.

"We didn't know whether anybody would be here at all so it was great to see so many people turned up to welcome us."

At 56, Todd was the oldest rider in the competition and he also retired from the sport for eight years before realising the competitive flame still flickered in him.

But he has not ruled out competing at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

"I'm not cancelling anything out at the moment, it depends on what horse I've got and other circumstances but I'm certainly keeping going in the short term anyway."

Todd and the other triumphant riders were surrounded by flocks of adoring children, who had taken the morning off school to see them in the flesh.

One girl, Charlotte Treneary, 8, gave Todd a letter titled "You're my Hero".

"One day I want to do the three day events, just like you and go to the Olympics and win all the gold medals they have," it read.

"I hope when I am older I will be just like you."

Richards, for whom London was her first Olympics, said she could remember getting just as excited about New Zealand's Olympic riders when she was a child.

"I was one of those kids a few years ago who got up in the middle of the night to watch Andrew and Mark at the Olympics and thought 'one day'. So I guess it's just history repeating. Hopefully one day some of them will come in and fill our shoes.

"The Olympics were incredible. The team has been great - it's an amazing team - we all got on very well so, yes, it was a serious time but we laso had a great time, we had fun. I think London did a wonderful job, it really was a very special Olympics," she said.

- APNZ

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