Youth Olympians re­turn

Taupo & Turangi Weekender - - Front Page - Rachel Can­ning

Each coun­try was al­lowed to send only one eques­trian ath­lete to the 2018 Youth Olympics, and New Zealand sent Taupō-nui-a-Tia Col­lege year 13 stu­dent Briar Bur­nett-Grant.

Briar, 18, found out about the se­lec­tion in Fe­bru­ary this year and went on to win the pres­ti­gious Horse of the Year com­pe­ti­tion in March, com­pet­ing in an open class against New Zealand’s best rid­ers on her horse Veroana.

With the com­pe­ti­tion sea­son over un­til Septem­ber, Briar set­tled into school life, train­ing her young horses and spend­ing time with her gravely-ill fa­ther Dave Bur­nett who died in Au­gust.

“Dad was rushed to hospi­tal in Fe­bru­ary and then he was in and out of hospi­tal many times be­fore Horse of the Year. He watched all the days of the com­pe­ti­tion and it was a re­ally big mo­ment for us all when I won.”

Dis­as­ter stuck again in Septem­ber when Briar broke her an­kle while ap­ply­ing studs onto Veroana’s hoof.

“It was two weeks out from fly­ing to Ar­gentina for the Youth Olympics, and my first thought was, can I still go?”

She couldn’t par­tic­i­pate in the open­ing cer­e­mony and dur­ing the com­pe­ti­tion the team medics would strap her an­kle daily, but Briar says she was in a lot of pain.

“Due to the anti-drug rules I was only al­lowed panadol for pain re­lief. It didn’t re­ally work.”

She drew Max­imo from the pool of horses and was al­lowed four train­ing rounds, each 30 min­utes in length, be­fore the com­pe­ti­tion be­gan. Coach Jeff McVean from Cam­bridge could only ad­vise from a video link as he didn’t have the cor­rect ac­cred­i­ta­tion to get into the train­ing area.

“We didn’t know it was go­ing to be that strict. My sis­ter Han­nah was my sup­port, she took video of my train­ing rounds and we sent them to Jeff for com­ment.”

Briar was also glad she could count on other fam­ily mem­bers who had gone over to sup­port her, her mother Karen, two sets of aunts and un­cles. In the ab­sence of any other New Zealand eques­trian team mates or their coaches to call on, Briar had a lit­tle bit of help from the Aus­tralian coach, but no-one else.

“The chef de mis­sion was [five times Olympian] Bar­bara Ken­dall and she was amaz­ing. Al­ways re­ally sup­port­ive. Orig­i­nally they were not go­ing to al­low Han­nah to take video, and then they al­lowed it.”

She says the whole ex­pe­ri­ence was amaz­ing learn­ing and she and Max­imo placed sixth in the in­di­vid­ual show jump­ing, with the New Zealand team com­ing in fifth. She said she tried not to think about her Dad as it just made her weak, and she man­aged to block out the com­pe­ti­tion pres­sure.

“I don’t get ner­vous, and the adrenalin blocked out the pain from my an­kle. It was a very painful sixth place.”

With NCEA fi­nal ex­ams loom­ing, Briar came home on Oc­to­ber 21 and says she is go­ing to have a gap year in 2019.

“I am go­ing to stay home with Mum and not rush into any­thing.”

How­ever the Euro­pean show jump­ing cir­cuit is beck­on­ing, and maybe be­yond 2019 Briar will join her old coach and dou­ble Olympian rider Daniel Meech.

In the mean­time, keep an eye out for her com­pet­ing in North Is­land show jump­ing events with Briar say­ing she will be com­pet­ing at the Taupo¯ Christ­mas Clas­sic Showjumping event at Ara­ti­a­tia from De­cem­ber 13 to 16.

Photo / Of­fi­cial Olympic Photo of Buenos Aires 2018

Taupo¯ rider Briar Bur­nett-Grant, 18, got sixth place on her drawn horse Max­imo at the 2018 Youth Olympics Games in Buenos Aires.

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