Equestrianism: Four face a further wait: Genevieve Murphy on the British showjumping squad for Barcelona which was named yesterday

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S showjumping selectors have named five riders for their Olympic squad. Only John Whitaker is guaranteed a place in the final team leaving the difficult decision as to which three of the other four will compete until 3 August, the day before the team event.

The five named yesterday on the second day of the Royal Show, were as expected: David Broome with Ancit Lannegan and Countryman, Tim Grubb (Denizen), Nick Skelton (Everest Dollar Girl and Limited Edition), John Whitaker (Henderson Milton and Gammon) and Michael Whitaker (Henderson Monsanta). Tina Cassan is the reserve with Genesis and Treffer.

John Whitaker is the only rider whose place on the final team has been confirmed. The other four would have preferred a decision yesterday and there seemed to be no reason for keeping them in suspense.

All the riders, Cassan included, have shown sparkling form since the competition for Olympic places began in earnest in May. This led Douglas Bunn, the chairman of the selection committee, to admit that the team would be 'very difficult to choose'.

Yet another change in the rules means that all five riders (instead of four as previously stipulated) and their horses will be accommodated at the Olympic sites. So, too, will Karen Dixon, the fifth rider in the three-day event squad, who had expected to be separated from the team.

Ronnie Massarella, the manager of Britain's showjumpers, will be left to make the painful decision as to which of his five riders will be left to watch the team and individual Olympic contests from the grandstands.

'It will be my head on the chopping block,' Massarella said. 'Our riders are all winners, they're capable of Grand Prix victories anywhere in the world. This time our horsepower is way ahead of past years and we have a great chance. The dangers, as I see it, are Germany, France, the Netherlands and the United States.'

Grubb, whose home is in the United States, is now based with Skelton. His vet, Brendon Furlong, will be flying over from New Jersey to give Denizen a thorough check before going to next week's Dublin Horse Show, where Britain's Olympic team is competing. The following week the team will jump at a French show in Royan before driving to Barcelona.

All of them can take part in the optional training classes on 1 August and the pressure will increase in intensity until the team is named.

BRITAIN'S OLYMPIC SQUAD

DAVID BROOME

The 52-year-old Welshman first rode in the Olympics at Rome 32 years ago. A former world and European champion, he is now aiming to compete in his sixth Games. Broome is still undecided which of two horses, Ancit Lannegan and Countryman, will be his preferred ride.

TIM GRUBB

Brought up in Leicestershire, the 38-year-old settled in New Jersey in 1980 after marrying the American showjumper Michele McEvoy. He was a member of the British team that finished second in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and now rides the consistent eight- year-old Denizen.

NICK SKELTON

Formerly based with Ted Edgar, the 34-year-old enhanced his chance of an Olympic place as a result of his performances with the former Swiss team horse, Everest Dollar Girl, in Aachen last week. He first rode this class mare at the end of May and has now established a fine rapport with her.

JOHN WHITAKER

The 36-year-old Yorkshireman is the leading rider in the world rankings. He has forged a brilliant partnership with the grey gelding, Henderson Milton, who will be competing in his first Olympics in Barcelona. In 1988, Milton's owners, Tom and Doreen Bradley, would not allow the horse to appear in Seoul.

MICHAEL WHITAKER

Aged 32, he was runner-up to his elder brother, John, when the Whitakers finished first and second in the 1989 European Championships. Both were members of the silver medal-winning team of 1984. He rides the 18-year-old Henderson Monsanta, on whom he won last year's Silk Cut Derby at Hickstead.

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