ATLANTA '96 : New formula gives selectors a headache

SPORT-BY-SPORT GUIDE No7: Equestrianism

The new formula for the three-day event, which has separate team and individual contests for the first time, presents the New Zealand selectors with a serious dilemma.

Mark Todd would like to attempt a third individual gold medal; Vaughn Jefferis would love to hold the world and Olympic titles simultaneously. But letting them try for individual gold would mean leaving them off the team, which most nations regard as the more important contest. Whatever decision is made, the Kiwis will be favourites having filled five of the top eight places at Badminton this year.

They were, however, beaten by the British team in the 1994 World Games and last year's European Open. Mary King and Charlotte Bathe contributed to both those victories and they are expected to be in the team event for Britain which starts on 21 July. Leslie Law and Ian Stark would have a chance of medals in the individual which begins two days later - but they could be chosen for the team instead. The selectors' awkward decision may, in the end, depend on how well the horses have acclimatised to the heat and humidity of Atlanta.

In dressage the Britons have no hope of individual medals, now decided over two competitions: the Grand Prix Special (31 July) and the Freestyle to Music (3 August). This is likely to end in a close tussle between Germany's Isabel Werth and Anky von Grunsven of the Netherlands.

Ronnie Massarella, manager of the British team, is buoyant about the chances of his four riders (Geoff Billington, Nick Skelton and the two Whitaker brothers, John and Michael) when they contest the team competition on 1 August.

Ludger Beerbaum (the defending Olympic champion) and Franke Sloothaak (who holds the world title) will be favourites for the individual show jumping on 4 August, the closing day of the Games. But the Britons will be in there fighting. Michael Whitaker, still hungry for his first win in a major championship, could even win the Olympic title if luck goes his way on Twostep.

EQUESTRIAN TEAMS: Three-day event (Four to be chosen for team,three for individual): C Bathe (The Cool Customer), K Dixon (Too Smart), W Fox-Pitt (Cosmopolitan II), M King (King William), L Law (New Flavour), G Parsonage (Magic Rogue), I Stark (Stanwick Ghost). Reserves: C Hunnable (Mr Bootsie), L Jennings (Diamond Pedlar). Show jumping: G Billington (It's Otto), N Skelton (Showtime), J Whitaker (Welham), M Whitaker (Twostep). Reserve: R Smith (Tees Hanauer or Orthos). Dressage: J Bredin (Cupido), R Davison (Askari), J Jackson (Mester Mouse), V Thompson (Enfant). Reserves: S Phlueger (Fun), W Bechtolsheimer (Giorgione).

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