Funnell's best gives Britain edge

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The Independent Online

Great Britain are in first place going into the cross country in the three-day event, following excellent dressage performances from Pippa Funnell and William Fox-Pitt.

Funnell scored just 31.40, which temporarily gave her the lead in the individual competition before she slipped into silver medal position behind Frenchman, Nicolas Touzaint.

Great Britain had been given a solid start by Mary King and Jeanette Brakewell on the first day and Leslie Law set the tone yesterday when he scored 43.20 on Shear L'Eau. In the afternoon session, Funnell produced the best test she had ever achieved on her chosen Olympic horse, Primmore's Pride. "Usually I am pretty nervous in the dressage event," said Funnell. "But today I felt very relaxed and I think that showed in the performance. I am absolutely thrilled with the test because it is the best one I have ever done on this horse. This is the sort of score you hope for when it comes to an event like this and I am really delighted."

Touzaint's test was a display of brilliance. Germany's Bettina Hoy had led the standings for almost two days and frequently scores highest in the opening phase on the international circuit. However, Touzaint's 29.40 on Galan De Sauvagere was enough to help his team into second place behind Britain at the end of the day.

Britain, with their team total of 113.20 - King and Brakewell's tests were discarded - will confirm their pre-Olympic standing as favourites for the gold medal. Funnell's performance means she begins the cross country as favourite for the individual title, a feat not achieved by a Briton since Richard Meade, on Laurieston, won gold at the Munich games in 1972.

Fox-Pitt also deserves considerable credit for his performance.After missing out on the Sydney Olympics, the reigning Badminton champion has his sights set on winning a medal this time and his score of 38.60, on Tamarillo, was enough for sixth place in the individual standings.

"I am very pleased with the way that test went," said Fox-Pitt. "There were some mistakes but overall I was happy. I think the hard work done by the dressage coach is the reason we are in this position now and we are very pleased with the team performance. The cross country course is challenging in places but it should be fine to make the time and so it is very important to be in this position at this stage of the competition."