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Destined for gold

An injury to her horse cost Natalie Blundell an equestrian place in Australia's Olympic Games team, but she'll be back.

Story: Kellie Penfold

ImageIn years to come, visitors to Harden-Murrumburrah in south-western NSW may be greeted by a road sign welcoming them to "the hometown of Natalie Blundell" and nearby Young may claim the mantle as her birthplace.

The 21 year-old who is the talk of the equestrian world was one of 15 riders selected in the Australian Equestrian Elite Squad for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, an honour usually reserved for riders twice her age.

Although her horse Billy Bathgate broke down in early August, ruling her out of the team for Sydney, her victory in a world-class field at last October's Adelaide International Horse Trials set her on a course that seems destined to propel her, eventually, to the top in her sport.

Natalie first sat on a horse at six months when her horse-loving mum Lin began instilling in her daughter a love of all things equine.

At the minimum allowable age of four she joined Pony Club and started on a competition circuit that filled her weekends and school holidays for the next 14 years.

At 18 there was no question what she would do after completing school.

Working under long-time coach Jo Brady, Natalie continued on the weekend circuit, travelling through the night in her ute with a horse float on the back, sleeping on the seat for a couple of hours before competing in dressage, cross country and show jumping events.

Eighteen months at the NSW Equestrian Centre under the leadership of the great Australian rider Heath Ryan provided a turning point. Story end

Full story: Issue 13, October-November, 2000

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