Britannia rules Olympics equestrian events

8/10/2012 11:00 AM
By Margaret Freeman Associated Press

LONDON (AP) - With royalty on and off the field at Greenwich Park, Britain ruled the Olympic equestrian events at the London Games.

The British won three of the six medals, including golds in team show jumping, team dressage and individual dressage. And, of course, silver in team eventing - with Queen Elizabeth II's granddaughter, Zara Phillips, competing for the host nation.

"I hope it doesn't end here. I hope it's the start of the team evolving," said Britain's Laura Bechtolsheimer, who rode Mistral Hojris for the British dressage team. "We've been watching on the telly how the crowds have been. The crowds have been carrying the athletes. We got to experience that ourselves, and it's a groundbreaking day."

The most attention was focused on Britain's eventing team when it won silver. With plenty of royal relatives in the crowd, Phillips galloped with her team to second place behind Germany, the start of Britain's most successful equestrian Olympics.

Prince William, second in line to the British throne, his wife, the former Kate Middleton, Prince Harry and Prince Charles' wife Camilla all came to watch. Zara's mother, Princess Anne, presented the medals.

Politics provided some of the sideshow with Ann Romney, wife of U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney, in London to cheer on Rafalca, a dressage horse she co-owns. Rafalca and rider Jan Ebeling finished 28th out of the 50 horses entered here and the U.S. dressage team finished sixth.

"She was consistent and elegant," Romney said of Rafalca. "She did not disappoint. She thrilled me to death."

The campaign issue of Romney's personal wealth supporting an Olympic horse accentuated the impression that equestrian sports are only for the wealthy. Although many of the riders come from middle-class backgrounds, they are often supported in their Olympic ambitions by wealthy sponsors.

However, the issue of expensive horsepower and its effect on Olympic results came to the forefront when the team from Saudi Arabia won bronze in show jumping. Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, one of the world's richest royals, provided ample funding for the team over the last two years, ensuring the best horses and trainers were made available to chase medals in London.

In other golds, Steve Guerdat of Switzerland, riding Nino des Buissonnets, won the individual show jumping and Michael Jung, aboard Sam, took individual gold in eventing. British rider Charlotte Dujardin, riding Valegro, won the individual dressage.

American riders were shut out from the medals after winning three at the 2008 Beijing Games, including team gold in show jumping.


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