Men, women on equal terms on horseback
Posted: Saturday August 7, 2004 5:29PM; Updated: Saturday August 7, 2004 5:29PM
LONDON, Aug 6 (Reuters) -- Equestrianism, the only sport where women compete on equal terms with men, is divided into three disciplines -- dressage, show-jumping and three-day eventing.
Western European countries, the United States, Australia and New Zealand are the traditional powerhouses.
Anky van Grunsven won the individual gold in 2000 and is probably the favourite in Athens. The Dutchwoman has also won four team and individual silvers over the past three Games although her great horse, Bonfire, has now retired. Isabell Werth of Germany, another four-times gold medallist, won silver in Sydney but has missed out on Athens. Compatriot Ulla Salzgeber, who won bronze four years ago, will be there. She has been the most consistent dressage rider since Sydney, winning the World Cup finals in 2001, 2002, 2003. She was stripped of the 2003 title after her horse Rusty tested positive for testosterone and Salzgeber was banned for two months. Germany have won six of the last seven team Olympic gold medals.
Northern European countries are likely to battle for the medals. Germany won the team gold in Sydney with Switzerland second and Germans Ludger Beerbaum and Marcus Ehning, in the 2000 gold medal-winning team, are riding high in the rankings. Switzerland's Markus Fuchs, who won a team silver in Sydney, came third in the 2004 World Cup final in Milan in April behind surprise French winner, Bruno Broucqsault, who will also be in Athens. The Dutch took gold and silver in the individual competition four years ago but neither Jeroen Dubbeldam nor Albert Voorn are in their Athens team.
Possibly Britain's best chance of a gold medal in Athens, both in the individual and the team event. Pippa Funnell was ranked number one in the world after becoming the first rider to win all three Grand Slam events in the same year in 2003. Leslie Law and William Fox-Pitt are in the British team which won silver behind Australia in 2000. Australia's Andrew Hoy will be competing at his sixth Olympics and is aiming for an Olympic record -- a fourth consecutive gold in the same event. Stuart Tinney, another of the gold medallists in 2000, is also in the Australian team. Blyth Tait of New Zealand is taking 16-year-old Reddy Teddy, the horse he rode to an individual gold in Atlanta. David O'Connor, the individual gold medallist in Sydney, has not made the American team.
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