Equestrianism: Zara Phillips and Team GB set up a showdown for gold with Germany at Greenwich

Cross-country heroics push home team up to second as three-day event nears climax

Greenwich Park

In a bloated modern Olympics, even the three-day eventing takes four days. After three-quarters of them in the glorious setting of Greenwich Park, Great Britain, third in Beijing, remain serious medal contenders: last night they were second behind the defending champions Germany, having improved their third place in the team event from the first two days, which were devoted to dressage.

In today's finale there will be two rounds of jumping, the first to decide the team medals and the second the individual medals, where Britain are less well placed but not out of contention: Tina Cook lies fifth, one place ahead of the 51-year-old Mary King, whose round was interrupted by one of yesterday's many spills, to a rider in front of her. The one disappointment was that William Fox-Pitt, ranked No 1 in the world, collected penalty points in the team's final ride, leaving them behind the Germans but just ahead of Sweden, with the veteran Mark Todd hauling New Zealand into fourth place. Australia had a bad day and dropped to sixth behind the United States.

The individual event leader is Germany's Ingrid Klimke from Sara Algotsson, one of two Swedish sisters, and Todd.

As the spectacular cross-country event succeeded dressage yesterday, the guesstimated 50,000 visitors included several members of the royal family, who saw the Queen's granddaughter play her part with a fine round. Like her team-mates, Zara Phillips paid tribute to the crowd support and atmosphere, while admitting that the noise drowned out the stopwatch that riders rely on to beep every minute as they keep track of their time. It was her performance as the third British rider out that briefly pushed the team into first place as the overnight leaders Germany initially lost their way with heavy time penalties for Peter Thomsen and Dirk Schrade.

Greenwich's demanding course of just over three miles had been one of the main sources of outrage for those local residents who had protested in vain that they did want this event in their backyard. The 28 fences designed by Sue Benson were based around London and Greenwich Park themes beginning with the Diamond Jubilee Hedge – framed in a large diamond – and continuing through The Planet (in homage to the adjacent Observatory), into the two Tower of London fences inside the main arena that had been flat-packed to the venue. The Royal Greenwich Borough, with its vertiginous slope, caused fewer problems than might have been expected, but there were still a number of falls, which caused delays of more than an hour in all.

King on Imperial Cavalier (owned, like Bolton Wanderers, by Eddie Davies), became the early leader – something she had not realised until being told by the BBC interviewer that her penalty points had been reduced because of the interruption. "He was very nervous of the crowds but it was wonderful to have everybody behind us," she said.

Hold-ups on Sunday had been caused by the weather, but though it was fine yesterday the course remained more slippery than the riders would have liked, and the fallers included Ireland's Michael Ryan and Camilla Speirs. The Canadian Hawley Bennett-Awad received medical treatment after her fall but was reported to be in stable condition.

Nicola Wilson from Darlington had set the tone and standard for Team GB in doing her job as the "pathfinder" on Opposition Buzz, effectively carrying out a recce for the other riders while going round well inside the time allowed of 10 minutes three seconds. She agreed that the noise from the spectators could have been disconcerting for home riders and their horses, but overall they seemed thrilled with the support.

Phillips was delighted with her round on High Kingdom, also collecting no penalty points to improve her overall position. "He lost a front shoe so it was even harder for him, but he was amazing and really grew up today. It is very slippery, especially coming down a hill, and it's twisty and turny and hilly. You've just got to try to ride as fast as you can but look after them [the horses] as well. You just have to hope that your horse deals with the noise and just focuses on the job."

Cook on Miners Frolic emulated Phillips to take Britain back into a slender lead from the Swedes and Germans, increasing her pace over the second half after being briefly behind the clock. "He is bred to race, thank goodness, as I'm not bred to go fast, and he really picked up the time," she said. "It helps when you've got a fantastic team around you and the first three going clear. We're feeling brilliant and the more horses that can go through to the show jumping with good scores will, hopefully, put pressure on the others."

That left Fox-Pitt, ranked No 1 in the world, but his mount Lionheart looked desperately tired as they finished with 9.20 penalty points, which failed to improve Britain's score and ruined his own individual medal prospects. Overall, however, it sets up a potentially thrilling day over the jumps today.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee