$7.2m gives equestrian team hope for gold at Rio

By David Leggat

Team gold in Rio is EQNZ's top priority, Ellis said. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Team gold in Rio is EQNZ's top priority, Ellis said. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Equestrian has what chief executive Jim Ellis calls its Holy Grail in sight - eventing team gold at the Rio Olympics.

It was one of the big beneficiaries of the High Performance Sport New Zealand funding handouts yesterday, jumping from $3.2 million over the four years leading up to the London Games this year, to $7.2 million from next year through to 2016.

Other sports received more, but Equestrian Sports New Zealand's leap is as significant as any, alongside Rugby Sevens, whose funding is based on the undeniable fact its chances of winning gold on its Olympic debut in Rio are at least as strong as any New Zealand athlete or team.

"It's a pretty expensive sport and we're primarily UK-based so the costs are significant," EQNZ chief executive Jim Ellis said last night. "We're trying to push on over the next four years and turn that bronze [in London] to gold and it takes some dollars."

Team gold in Rio is EQNZ's top priority, Ellis said. "That's what drives us in this sport for the next four years."

All sports will have had some disappointments, in equestrian's case it is missing out on support for its other disciplines. It didn't quite get all it had asked for, but no one did, and you won't hear any complaints.

So too Hockey New Zealand, where chief executive Hilary Poole remembered back to 2009 when women's hockey got nothing and the men $700,000.

"It's been hard earned and we know we've still got a lot of work to do, but we're really pleased they [HPSNZ] have confidence in the progress we've made and belief in us through to Rio," she said.

A disappointment? The inability for HPSNZ to invest in talent development. "That's not just hockey, it's across the board. The pie is not big enough."

Canoeing have plenty to smile about, up $1 million in both actual and forecasted support from the last four years. Central to its plans is creating a high-performance coaching team to work with coach Gordon Walker.

"HPSNZ's confidence in the sport's ability to deliver on the water ... underpins an exciting opportunity for canoe racing to build a programme that will position the sport to deliver sustainable medal-producing performances for New Zealand in future Olympic Games," it said.

- NZ Herald

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