GB still in hunt for equestrian gold

30 July 2012 / 19:32

Zara Phillips produced a command performance on her Olympics cross-country debut at Greenwich Park as Great Britain's equestrian eventers kept their gold medal dream alive.

Former world champion Phillips, The Queen's granddaughter, was roared to the rafters by a 50,000 crowd that included the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and the Duchess of Cornwall.

A day of high drama saw the competition delayed five times because of falls - Sue Benson's 28-obstacle course claimed 15 casualties - and it finished an hour later than scheduled. And while there were no serious injuries to horses or riders, a slippery surface in places made life treacherous for many combinations.

Britain have won 17 post-war Olympic eventing medals, and they hold silver medal position overnight in the team competition behind reigning European champions Germany ahead of Tuesday morning's showjumping finale.

The Germans are on a score of 124.70, 5.5 penalties ahead of Britain, with Sweden third. The individual competition, meanwhile, has joint leaders in Germany's Ingrid Klimke and Swedish rider Sara Algotsson Ostholt.

Mark Todd, the 56-year-old New Zealander chasing a third Olympic title 24 years after his last one, is third, just ahead of world champion Michael Jung. The top four medal contenders are separated by only 1.3 penalties.

Tina Cook, a double Olympic bronze medallist, is best of the British riders in fifth, 51-year-old Mary King lies sixth, Phillips is equal 10th, Nicola Wilson 20th and William Fox-Pitt 22nd.

The British riders produced an eventing masterclass. Phillips, Wilson and Cook were among just nine combinations that went clear inside the time allowed of 10 minutes, three seconds, while King collected only 1.2 time faults and Fox-Pitt 9.2.

Phillips said the crowd had buoyed her along on a day that could hardly have gone better for Britain. The last time Britain won an Olympic team gold was in Munich 40 years, when Captain Mark Phillips - Zara's father - was in the team.

Phillips, who celebrated the first anniversary of her wedding to former England rugby star Mike Tindall, said: "The crowd was amazing all the way along. All these people being here is just incredible. It really makes you want to do better, to go faster."