An Olympic Diary; Caroline Powell shares her personal insight
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Event rider Caroline Powell has been resident in the Scottish Borders for 20 years, but even though it was on her adopted ‘home ground’, New Zealand team selection for the London 2012 Olympics with the remarkable 19-year-old gelding Lenamore was just as exciting as her previous international appearances in Lexington and Beijing, albeit without all the travelling.
Caroline won a team bronze medal at the World Equestrian Games in 2012 with Mac Macdonald and with Lenamore, she was the highest placed New Zealand rider at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, so is no stranger to the limelight. Speaking on her return home to Kelso with a well-deserved team bronze medal, she gives a personal insight into the experience that was her London 2012.
“The whole of the New Zealand team met up at a secret training location in Surrey, which was a gorgeous house with swimming pools and gyms, and the yard for the horses was second to none. It was awesome. We had some fantastic training, the horses were purring and the atmosphere was great. We got the chance of going to the Olympic Village to get accredited and have a look around before we went back to our own bases and relaxed for a few days before the pressure began.
“When we got all of our accreditation and team uniforms, we were like kids at Christmas, unwrapping things and trying them on. There was great hilarity and then the realisation hit that we had to do the trot up in team uniform – they were lovely little dresses – not ideal for the job!”
“Lenamore and I drew third in the team and so were on the Sunday morning. He did a really a nice test apart from the two wee whoopsies, which messed things up. It was then that we all realised his personal dream was over and it was all about playing a major role in the team....
“The cross country was like a rollercoaster. The fences were 2½ to 3 star level, amazing to look at, but the terrain and the camber made it a real test. As the grass was so beautifully trimmed, it was difficult to ride fluently and you couldn’t take your mind off what you were doing for a second or you would end up in trouble.
“They had actually been watering the ground, but I don’t think it was slippery because of the watering, I think it was just ‘new’ ground. The equine facilities in general were very impressive, acres of arenas, gallops and stabling. It was a bit weird sharing a room in the Olympic village though – not what the New Zealand team manager Sarah or I were used to. We were there for a week and a half and I have to say it was all very well organised from our point of view – nothing was an issue at all.
“Lenamore finished fine after his cross country round and trotted up well before the show jumping. We had the second last fence down although he jumped extremely well and the whole experience was just tremendous. There was really good camaraderie, everybody was supportive, knew each other and enjoyed the company. We played around with Twitter and Facebook and tried to keep everyone in touch along the way.
“Looking back, I don’t think we could have done anything different in Lenamore’s preparation. He’s 19 and we’re a little bit on borrowed time with him now, so anything we do is a bonus. He’s gone home to the Mackinnons and that’s probably him for the season. Then we’ll see what he’s like, but he still looks and feels so well, although we are very aware that he is at the age when he should be retired. The plan is to keep competing him until he tells us he is!”
Bringing home a bronze medal would be a highlight for any rider and it is no different for Caroline, even though she is a veteran of those two previous major team appearances for New Zealand. “The Olympic medal is still in my handbag, being trollied around everyone and everywhere. It’s huge, like a big rosette and very heavy.”
Caroline is now planning the remainder of the season, with a busy schedule of three day runs at Burghley, Blenheim and then to Boekelo and Le Lion D’Anger. She’s hoping for a good end to the year and with a stable of talented and experienced horses to compete, more top international placings seem inevitable.
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August 23, 2012 | Share: