Mark Todd was already an all-time great when he retired for the first time, in 2000. But when his comeback yielded yet another Badminton winner and further Olympic tilts, he cemented his supremacy, says Catherine Austen
When the FEI awarded Mark Todd the title of Rider of the Century in 2000, it seemed a beautifully apt way to round off a lengthy, glittering career. He retired back to his native New Zealand and it seemed as though the eventing phase of his life was finished.
Not even his most ardent fans could have predicted that, 11 years later, he would pull off possibly his greatest achievement – a fourth Badminton victory 31 years after his first. That win, on NZB Land Vision, encapsulated everything that makes Sir Mark – knighted in 2013 – a truly great sportsman.
It underscored the fact that he had lost none of his courage, ability, “feel” and fitness at the age of 55 – plenty of his fellow competitors weren’t even born when he first lifted that iconic trophy. But, even more meaningfully, it demonstrated that he could adapt and raise his game to meet the demands of a sport that had changed considerably in his absence. His competitive edge was once more honed to razor-sharpness.