Dutch set for dressage gold

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The Independent Online
Anky van Grunsven's outstanding performance yesterday at Georgia's international horse park, Conyers, has put the Netherlands in line for its first Olympic gold medal in dressage.

Riding the 13-year-old Bonfire, with his familiar high knee action, Van Grunsven, 28, scored 1670 for her Grand Prix special test which, combined with Saturday's Grand Prix result, has put the Dutch rider a mere 1.3 marks ahead of Germany's Isabell Werth on Gigolo.

There has been intense rivalry between these two riders since the 1994 World Championships in The Hague when van Grunsven, who is trained by Sjef Jannssen, won the world free-style title and Werth won the Grand Prix special.

For the first time in Olympic dressage the scores from both these tests and from the Grand Prix will be combined to give a single medal winner. Van Grunsven will start as the clear favourite for the individual gold in Saturday's freestyle competition for which she has had a new music score specially composed.

Richard Davison, who is Britain's sole representative in the Grand Prix special, failed to qualify for the freestyle on the nine-year-old Askari.

But this was only the second international Grand Prix special of Askari's career and Davison was quite pleased with the youngster. "He was feeling tired but he still tried hard," said Davison.

The order for Britain's show jumping team into today's Nations Cup to decide the team medals is Nick Skelton (Show Time), Michael Whitaker (Two Step), Geoff Billington (It's Otto), and John Whitaker (Welham).

Blood tests carried out on Two Step after his poor performance on Monday indicates that he has suffered a slight virus. And Whitaker thinks the horse's back has also been troubling him. "We're keeping our fingers crossed," he said yesterday.

Matthias Beaumann, the Germany event rider, has sent a fax and has also submitted two photographs to the international federation, the FEI, in order to substantiate his allegations that the Argentinian show-jumping team have used illegal training methods at their pre-Olympic site at Pine Top Farm.

In a meeting yesterday afternoon, the FEI Appeals Committee decided that it had insufficient evidence to disqualify the Argentinians.