Equestrianism: British guarding against injury

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The Independent Online
THE British three-day event riders, now in training at Badminton, are concentrating on dressage and show jumping. Cross-country schooling has been ruled out for fear of injury.

That danger was highlighted by Peter Gray, Bermuda's leading event rider and a competitor in three Olympics, who broke his leg in a fall at Montecute and is now out of the Games.

The four British Olympic team members - Virginia Leng, Ian Stark, Mary Thomson and Richard Walker - are clearly enjoying their team concentration.

Fear of injury is a constant source of anxiety. Stark, who takes Murphy Himself and Glenburnie to Barcelona, said: 'The next two weeks will be the most frightening of anyone's life.'

All the horses did fast work at Lambourn last Thursday and, to everyone's relief, they were all sound the following morning. They will fly from Bristol to Barcelona next Tuesday.

The Spanish three-day event horses will also be on the plane. 'We hope that will help to speed things up the other end,' Lord Patrick Beresford, the British chef d'equipe, said.

Barring injury, the British team will be favourites for the gold. 'We're so spoilt having all these lovely horses,' Leng, who rides Master Craftsman, said. 'All the others are quite nervous about us.'

The United States, who won the team gold medals at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, have been weakened by their own points system, which was devised to avoid the threat of litigation from any riders left out of the team.

Two of the horses in the top four on points - David O'Connor's Wilton Fair and Mystic High, the mount of the former world champion, Bruce Davidson - have had to be omitted because they were lame after the final trial. Mike Plumb, who will be competing in his seventh Olympics, will now be joined by three newcomers to the American team.

Eric Navet, France's showjumping world champion, yesterday received clearance to compete in Barcelona when an international arbitration panel in Lausanne lifted a ban for alleged doping. Navet received a four- month suspension in April after the International Equestrian Federation said tests on his horse Quito de Baussy at the 1991 European championships, which the pair won, revealed a quantity of the banned steroid cortisol.