Waikato Rider Chasing 2016 Rio Olympics Place

Waikato equestrian Jesse Campbell seeks Olympic spot for New Zealand team – Ian Anderson. Waikato Times

Jesse Campbell has been handed a major responsibility with the New Zealand three-day event team.

The Waikato equestrian recently got another call-up to a Kiwi team – this time one that will compete in a crucial three-star meet in The Netherlands this week that has signficant implications on New Zealand’s participation at next year’s Olympic Games.

The youngest member of the NZ Eventing High Performance squad has taken his mount Kaapachino to the Boekelo Nations Cup Championship as the Kiwi team attempts to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Campbell is joined in the team by Jonelle Price aboard Cloud Dancer II, Tim Price on Xavier Faer, Blyth Tait on Xanthus III and Dan Jocelyn on Dassett Cool Touch, with one combination to miss out.

After their disappointing World Games effort last year, Boekelo presents the NZ team with their next chance to qualify for the Olympics – instead of having to rely on  individual riders’ FEI rankings.

The advantage of NZ qualifying through this week’s event would mean their team for Rio could include a reserve – an option not available to teams who qualify through the ranking system and something treasured by equestrian teams often at the whim on how their mounts come through, travel, quarantine and vet checks.

Equestrian Sports NZ high performance eventing coach Erik Duvander said while the Boekelo event would allow him to “sign off the Olympic qualification” a little sooner than waiting on rankings, he was also focused on ensuring other horses were ready for upcoming four-star events in preparation for Rio.

“We need to be playing two games here – the Olympic qualifier and the Olympic campaign,” Duvander said.

The four-star event at Pau, France – which Campbell is also lined up to compete at – has a cross-country course designed by Frenchman Pierre Michelet, who will also oversee the Olympic course in Rio. “It is key our riders get out on his courses,” Duvander said.

“It is always a reasonably tough cross country at Boekelo and there is a strong field expected. However, the riders we have selected are all very strong and experienced, so we are relying on them to do well.”

Campbell recently won a three-star event in Ireland on former racehorse Kaapachino and made a bold showing in his four-star debut at the prestigious Luhmuhlen event in Germany in June.

“He’s a gorgeous horse, but not the most gifted horse,” Campbell said of Kaapachino.

“His conformation makes the jumping phase hard for him and his movement is not in the same league as the sport horses bred for the sport, but he is a horse with tremendous heart who tries incredibly hard for me.

“The fact he consistently achieves 75 per cent in his four-star and three-star dressage – a record for a NZ ex-racehorse – and the fact he consistently completes cross-country without faults and within the time, is testament to how hard he tries and the special nature of our relationship.

“He’s my best friend and there is no other horse I want to be riding for New Zealand at this crucial time.”

Campbell said rain forecast for Bokelo should make for a heavy, tiring course designed by Sue Benson, who designed the 2012 London Olympic Games cross-country course.

Almost 100 competitors have entered for Boekelo, including teams from Germany, Holland, United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia, Japan and the United States.

 – Stuff