Equestrian: Powell ready for some good luck

By Michael Brown of APNZ in London

Caroline Powell hopes the Olympics can allow her to look back on 2012 a little more fondly. Photo / Jon Stroud.
Caroline Powell hopes the Olympics can allow her to look back on 2012 a little more fondly. Photo / Jon Stroud.

New Zealand eventer Caroline Powell has had a pretty distressing year, even by her own admission, but hopes the Olympics can allow her to look back on 2012 a little more fondly.

In January she was left out of the original New Zealand high performance squad to prepare for the London Games, in March she lost her four-star mare Mrs Tilly to disease and earlier this month her mother died of cancer.

"It's been a bit crap, hasn't it?" she said of her mother's death. "What's that saying? What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. It's been really quite hard but it's just one of those things that happen to everybody and you have to deal with it and get on with it.

"The timing was great because I was able to go back for the funeral. We were in New Zealand for three days and then came back and refocused. In many ways, with her not being that well for some time, we were always wondering when it would be. There's closure on it and it has put a few things to rest."

Throughout it all, Powell has had Lenamore, the 19-year-old mount she will ride at the Olympics. The relationship between a rider and a horse is more than just one of teammates and it's hard to imagine the burly Eric Murray, one half of the gold-medal favourite rowing crew, talking quite so fondly about Hamish Bond as Powell does of the grey gelding.

"It's a marriage," she said. "It really is. It takes a long time to gel with a horse."

Some might have given up on Lenamore. Powell talks of him being "difficult" and a "tearaway" in his youth, being a bit "quirky" and a "bad traveller" but the pair have found a happy working relationship over the last eight years and could figure in London.

Teammates Mark Todd and Andrew Nicholson, who are both going to their seventh Olympics, might receive all of the attention and be among the favourites but Powell is a chance and will certainly be relied on in the team's event. She finished 14th in Beijing, the highest-placed rider in the three-day event, and won Burghley in 2010 on Lenamore.

"I think I went into Beijing quite uptight about the whole thing because it was new and different," she said. "I wasn't all that confident with him. I think this time, a lot has happened over the years. The pair of us have grown up a little bit. We are a lot more focused this year. We know each other more.

"I'm very quietly confident. He's in cracking form. As long as his brain space is good."

The venue at Greenwich Park, built around the prime meridian line and overlooking the city, is different to anything riders experience elsewhere and will be a factor. So will the occasion.

Great Britain and Germany will start as favourites in the team's event but the talk around the stables is about how New Zealand are once again a force. Todd's return to the sport after retirement is a big part of that but so is the emergence of the likes of Powell and Jonathan Paget.

"I think we are going into the Olympics with one of the strongest teams we have ever had," he said. "We are always slightly cautious. You don't want to get too cocky. We have been in this position before where we have gone into championships thinking we are favourites and things go wrong. You also need a bit of luck on your side."

Powell probably feels she's due a bit of that.

- APNZ

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