Equestrianism: American domination underlines Olympic potential

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Kim Severson led a clean sweep by United States riders in yesterday's dressage phase of Advanced Section II at the Festival of British Eventing. The American contingent (which includes all their Olympic riders and horses, trained by Captain Mark Phillips), holds the top eight places.

The home riders, led by Sharon Hunt in ninth, must be pleased to know that the visitors are not finishing the competition here. They will retire before today's cross-country, leaving others to collect the prizes.

Severson, who won the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event at Lexington in April on Winsome Adante, was already considered a serious contender for individual honours in Athens and that assessment was endorsed with a lovely test yesterday. She finished ahead of Darren Chiacchia, the individual winner of last year's Pan-American Games, on Windfall II. Two other members of the Athens team, Amy Tryon on My Beau and John Williams on Carrick, were also in the top five on their Olympic horses.

The Americans, who had been training in the heat of Virginia before they arrived in England on 21 July, are following the schedule that they used before their team victory at the 2002 World Equestrian Games at Jerez in Spain.

"We've come out of the heat for two to three weeks to freshen the horses up before they go to Athens," Phillips said. Two Britons, Jo May and Marie Ryan, head Advanced Section I, with the American rider John Williams sharing third place on his other horse, Sloopy.

Britain's team riders fly to Athens today, but Mary King (the travelling reserve) will contest the British Open Championship which begins with the dressage phase today. She will be riding the 10-year-old bay gelding, Sky Sport.

Results after dressage: Advanced Section I: 1 Faere Vision (J May, GB) 29.8 penalties; 2 Sparrow Hall (M Ryan, GB) 33.3; 3= Sloopy (J Williams, US) & Capuchin (C Phillips, GB) 33.7. Advanced Section II: 1 Winsome Adante (K Severson, US) 28.5; 2 Windfall II (D Chiacchia, US) 29.6; 3 Outlawed (D O'Connor, US); 4 My Beau (A Tryon, US) 32.8.