Equestrianism: Top Britons start quest for berths at Olympics

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The Independent Online

Competition for Britain's two individual show jumping places at the Olympics begins in earnest here today when the first of this year's Super League shows begins.

Robert Smith, Michael Whitaker and Nick Skelton will be competing. Richard Davenport, another possible contender, will be at the Rome Super League show three weeks later.

British team manager, Derek Ricketts, has nominated the first four Super League shows as Olympic trials. He is likely to be especially interested in Smith's Mr Springfield, Whitaker's Fleur and Skelton's Arko III, the three horses being strong candidates for one of those places which their riders are eager to claim. All three are expected to be named for tomorrow's Nations Cup team, with either Mark Armstrong or Scott Smith completing the quartet.

The Germans, with three riders who won individual European Championship medals last year - reigning champion Christian Ahlmann, Ludger Beerbaum and Marcus Ehning - will be favourites.

Confirmation that Britain had secured two individual Olympic places came earlier this week with the publication of a special Olympic ranking list, which excluded riders from nations that have already qualified to send teams to Athens. It is dominated by Britons with Smith, Whitaker and Skelton in the top three places and five compatriots among the top 10.