Equsetrianism: Phillips defies pressure to seize world title

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The Independent Online

Zara Phillips brought the three-day event to a dramatic conclusion at the World Equestrian Games here yesterday, when she held on to her overnight lead - and her nerve - to win the world title on Toytown. But supporters of the Queen's 24-year-old granddaughter had several minutes of toe-curling tension to endure before the reward was in safe keeping.

Jumping last in the usual reverse order of merit before a crowd of 30,000 spectators, Phillips could afford one fence down and three time penalties. Hearts that were already fluttering began to race when she started late - she had not heard the starting bell above the cheering for a German team victory - and when a rail dropped coming out of the treble, the 12th of 13 fences, all eyes were turned on the clock. Fortunately it stopped obligingly at one time penalty, giving her a 2.1pt victory over the British-based Australian Clayton Fredericks on Ben Along Time, with the US rider Amy Tryon taking the bronze medal on Poggio.

The vast main arena might have seemed intimidating for eventers - but not for Phillips or Toytown. "It was amazing to be able to jump in there and my horse loves crowds, he thinks they're all there to watch him," she said. Phillips had wanted to win gold in memory of a friend - the Irish event rider Sherelle Duke, who sustained fatal injuries in a fall at Brockenhurst the previous Sunday.

Germany's Bettina Hoy, second overnight, dropped back to sixth and once again failed in her attempt for individual victory in a major championship that she so deserves - but she contributed to the first German team world title. Britain took silver, with Australia edging ahead of the United States to take bronze.

Phillips had sown the seeds of her success in Saturday's cross-country phase when she rode one of the 11 clear rounds that were within the optimum time. "It was a true rider's course and the atmosphere was great, with everybody cheering no matter where you came from," she said.

Daisy Dick (whose father, the late Dave Dick, rode ESB to victory in the 1956 Grand National) had arguably the most impressive round of the day. "I felt I had my father on my shoulder," she said, after finishing in the fastest time of the day on the aptly-named Spring Along to progress from 57th to 15th and so fulfill her desire to justify her place after a disappointing dressage.

There were dispiriting run-outs for Britain's two most experienced riders - Mary King on Call Again Cavalier and William Fox-Pitt on Tamarillo - but good clear rounds from the two British individuals - Sharon Hunt on Tankers Town and Oliver Townend, who was also within the time on Flint Curtis. All of them moved up with clear rounds in yesterday's show jumping.

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