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Kiwi Nicholson crowned Badminton champion

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 7/05/2017

After 36 years of trying, New Zealand eventing great Andrew Nicholson has clinched the Badminton Horse Trials.

Nicholson, riding his established mount Nereo, headed off Olympic champion Michael Jung in a dramatic showjumping phase to win the world's premier four-star event.

A seven-time Olympian and multiple winner of other four-star events, including five Burghley Horse Trials titles, Nicholson had always fallen short at Badminton in 36 previous visits.

Fifth after the dressage phase, he had improved to third heading into Sunday's showjumping.

Nereo jumped clear and picked up just 1.0 time penalty points, putting the pressure on Jung and fellow-German leader Ingrid Klimke.

World No.1 Jung knocked over one rail to fall while Klimke had a disaster, felling four rails.

It handed the title to the stunned 55-year-old Kiwi who has spent most of his career based in the United Kingdom

"It is an unbelievable feeling. To have waited so long, to be so near a few times, it has been pretty hard but you just have to get over it and move on," Nicholson said.

He was quick to shower praise on Spanish-bred chestnut horse Nereo, who he has ridden for 13 years and whose only previous weakness had been in the showjumping.

"He (Nereo) showed he can do it at 17 years old.

"The amount of events he's started, for a big strong horse, year after year is unbelievable."

Nicholson's win is his biggest since coming back from neck surgery following a fall in 2015 which nearly paralysed him.

He took nearly a year to return to top-flight riding.

It was a day to remember for the Kiwi contingent, who claimed four of the top six positions.

Tim Price, riding Xavier Faer, was third while four-time Badminton winner Sir Mark Todd was fourth on NZB Campino and sixth on Leonidas II.

Nicholson was 12th on Qwanza, who also won the prize as best mare.

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