New Zealand's two most successful Olympic eventers could team up again in Rio this year.
While Mark Todd, a double Olympic gold medallist in his six Games appearances, is well ensconced in the high performance group, Blyth Tait is making a determined run for inclusion in the team of four for Rio after time away from the sport.
Tait has a terrific record at world championship and Olympic level, a four-time gold medallist at the worlds. Only three athletes have won more Olympic medals in any sport for New Zealand than Tait.
His challenge for the London 2012 team foundered on horse soundness but he'sdetermined to make Rio. He knows it's a tough job, considering the high performance squad includes Todd, Jock Paget, husband-and-wife team Tim and Jonelle Price, and Clarke Johnstone, the first four all with quality records behind them, Johnstone a highly regarded rider.
"I'm definitely really enjoying it," Tait said.
"It would be really good if I could get the opportunity [to ride in Rio] but it's not going to be easy. The Kiwi team is pretty damn good at the moment, but being back on the high performance squad, and definitely in contention, is a real motivation for me."
Tait, at 54 six years younger than the indefatigable Todd, admitted he stepped away from the sport in 2004 because he was losing interest.
At the time, he never expected to return but "I missed the core values which got me involved in the first place, and sort of drifted my way back in. Once you've had a bit of a go [at London four years ago] and haven't been successful, you want to keep going until you are."
Tait, who is now based in Gloucestershire, has two quality horses in work, Bear Necessity and Xanthus. New Zealand's leading contenders have been told they must produce strong form at the next two four-star events, in Kentucky from April 28-May 1, and at Badminton from May 5-8. He has Xanthus lined up for the US trip, a venue where he's won three previous titles, and Bear Necessity for Badminton,
He knows there are no shortcuts. Performances at the biggest events matter most.
"The strength of the squad, Tim, Jonelle, Mark and Jonathan, they've already had four-star performances so I've got to deliver at one of those.
"I'm certainly not going to take the safe route this [northern] spring. I'm going to have a crack at the likes of Badminton, Kentucky and Luhmuhlen [another of the six four-star events, June 16-19]. If I deliver, Rio becomes an opportunity."
Todd's success on returning from retirement was not a motivation for Tait. "He's done things for his own reasons, and me for mine."