Equestrianism: Funnell aims for Olympics

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BRITAIN RETAINED their lead at the European Three-Day Event Championships here, yesterday after superb cross-country performances from all four team members. In addition, Pippa Funnell's clear round within the optimum time on Supreme Rock has kept her in the individual gold medal position. She goes into today's show jumping test with two fences in hand over the second-placed Linda Algotsson, from Sweden, on Stand By Me, with the Frenchman Didier Courreges one point behind in third.

The British team, one of 14 at these championships, have an 18-point lead over the Swedish, the same margin by which they led after Friday's dressage, so they can afford only three fences down today if they are to retain the team gold medal won at Burghley in 1997. Success today would also qualify Britain for next year's Sydney Olympics, which has been a priority at these championships.

All four members of the British team went clear yesterday over Wolfgang Feld's 28-fence cross-country course to finish within the top 12 places. Ian Stark, the 1991 European champion, completed the course spot on the optimum time of 11min 50sec with his Badminton winner Jaybee, owned by Lady Hartington, and is in fifth place.

Funnell, 30, is riding in her first senior championship team on a horse that does not have a clean cross-country record. But yesterday they made no mistakes over the technically demanding course. On the advice of the team manager Chris Bartle, Funnell, who was third to go for the team, had taken the slow route at fence four, the first water complex, but still managed to make up enough time on the big-striding Supreme Rock to finish with one second to spare.

Also making her debut in the senior team was Jeanette Brakewell, 25, who did an outstanding job as pathfinder on the Irish-bred Over To You, completing the course just nine seconds outside the optimum time. The fourth team member, Kristina Gifford, daughter of the National Hunt trainer Josh Gifford, brought the relatively inexperienced ex-show jumper, The Gangster, back with only four time penalties.

Katie Parker, riding as an individual, went clear on Cornish Envoy, but Britain's other individual rider, Rodney Powell, had a fall with Flintstone at the 16th fence, a big arrowhead with a ditch in front. He was taken to hospital for a check-up, but suffered only a badly bruised thigh.

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