Equestrian: Germans lead after challenging cross-country
LONDON (Reuters) - A relaxed and confident Germany team led the field in equestrian eventing with Britain close behind following an incident-packed cross-country on Monday that saw 15 of 74 riders eliminated.
Germany's Ingrid Klimke and Sweden's Sara Algotsson Ostholt were in joint first in the individual rankings going into Tuesday's jumping phase, but the scores were so close it remained anyone's game.
Riders said it was a challenge to navigate the twisting and hilly course of 28 obstacles inspired by everything from classic children's book The Wind in the Willows to ancient Rome.
"The course is challenging because of this up and down and turn. Everything is coming just quick, quick, quick," Klimke said. Her horse, she said, was the key.
"He made it easy for me."
Only eight other riders made it over the 5.7 km course within the allotted time of 10 minutes and three seconds.
One of those was a jubilant Zara Phillips, granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II and daughter of Olympians Princess Anne and Mark Phillips.
With her clean ride, clears by Nicola Wilson and Kristina Cook and strong performances by Mary King and William Fox-Pitt, the British team was in good shape going into the jumping.
Algotsson Ostholt's clean showing and solid rides by her team mates put the Swedish team in third place overall. New Zealand's Mark Todd, who has said he is in London firmly intending to go home with a medal, was third individually.
Phillips, whose performance was watched by a clutch of royal relatives including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, pumped a fist in the air after landing off the last fence and riding through the finish.
She said her strong ride came in spite of the fact that her mount High Kingdom lost shoes on the course.
"It's the type of horse he is. He's quick and turns well, and he handles it really well," she said.
"It's so slippery out there with the hills and the turns. It's hard work."
Horseshoes loomed large in the story of Monday's cross-country.
Several horses shed shoes, which made the going even more slippery underfoot. Many riders said they used extra-large studs to improve traction after seeing how slick the footing was between the fences.
Two of the obstacles - one inspired by an ancient Greenwich Park bandstand and the other by the quintessentially English game of cricket - proved particularly thorny for some horses.
The bandstand, a combination of two jumps, proved the day's biggest bogeyman. Two horses fell, two riders came off, several refused at least once and Brazil's Serguei Fofanoff was knocked out of contention after his mount Barbara refused three times.
Australia dropped to sixth place from second following the weekend dressage phase after Sam Griffiths fell at the bandstand and Clayton Fredericks's horse, Bendigo, took a tumble at the same obstacle.
There were no serious injuries in Monday's cross-country, the riskiest discipline in equestrian.
Japan and Canada had a tough day, with three of five riders on each team knocked out by falls.
(Reporting by Sarah Edmonds; editing by Ken Ferris)
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