Zara Phillips, granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II and 14th in line to the U.K. throne, will ride for Olympic gold today as Britain enters the jumping phase of the team eventing competition in second place.
Germany leads after yesterday’s cross country stage with 124.7 penalty points. Britain has 130.2 points ahead of third-place Sweden with 131.4. Knocking down a pole during the jumping tests costs a rider four penalty points.
Phillips, roared on by a partisan crowd and supported by her cousins Princes William and Harry, produced a clear round in 9 minutes, 56 seconds in the cross country, within the optimum time of 10:03, even after her horse, High Kingdom, lost a shoe.
“The support is an advantage and really gets you going, but you’ve got to focus on your job,” Phillips, 31, told reporters after finishing her round. “The only problem was you couldn’t really hear your watch beeping.”
Fifteen riders fell from their horses as 74 starters negotiated the hilly course in Greenwich Park, a former royal hunting ground next to the River Thames. Yoshiaki Oiwa of Japan, who was leading the individual eventing contest after the dressage, crashed out along with three Canadian team members.
“It’s definitely one of the most difficult courses I’ve ever ridden in terms of terrain,” said Australia’s Andrew Hoy, 53, who won eventing team gold at the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Olympics. “It’s very, very tough on the horses.”
Germany’s Ingrid Klimke, 44, is tied for first place in the individual eventing competition with Sara Algotsson Ostholt of Sweden. Both women have 39.30 penalty points through the dressage and cross country. New Zealand’s Mark Todd, 56, is third with 39.50.
Phillips, who started in 24th place yesterday after scoring 46.10 penalty points in the dressage, moved into a tie for 10th after clearing the 28-obstacle cross country course.
“It’s slippery out there and twisty and turny,” she said. “It was hard work. The crowd were amazing all the way around.”
Phillips has equestrianism in her blood. She is the daughter of Mark Phillips, who won gold at the Munich Olympics in 1972 and silver at Seoul in 1988, and the Queen’s daughter Princess Anne, who competed for Britain at the Montreal Olympics in 1976 and was European champion in 1971.
Married to former England rugby captain Mike Tindall, Phillips was selected for Britain’s Olympic team four years ago in Beijing before withdrawing when her horse went lame.
She won individual gold and team silver at the 2006 World Equestrian Games and added the team gold at the European Eventing Championships the following year.
“The cheers were massive when she was coming past, you could hear it all around the arena,” said Laura Crotch-Harvey, a 22-year-old student from Cheshire in northern England. “She’s helping us get a lot more coverage for the sport because everyone is talking about Zara Phillips.”