Zara Phillips ready to grab Olympic chance

 

Zara Phillips will make it third time lucky at London 2012, and she admitted: "Plan A does not always happen".

Phillips and High Kingdom are part of a five-strong Great Britain eventing team that will begin its bid for Olympic gold at Greenwich Park on Saturday morning.

The 31-year-old never made an Olympic appearance on her 2006 world championship-winning horse Toytown.

Toytown was injured ahead of selection for the 2004 Athens Games, and then after gaining an Olympic place four years later, injury again struck.

But Phillips has fought her way back to gain overdue Olympic recognition, emulating her mother the Princess Royal and father Captain Mark Phillips, who were both eventing Olympians.

"In our sport, not everything always goes to plan," said Phillips, The Queen's granddaughter.

"Plan A doesn't always happen, so you have got to be prepared to keep going and try again.

"It is about building the horses up and trying to get to the top again.

"Both my parents rode at the Olympics, but although it is the Olympics, it is also another competition and you need to work the same way you normally would. You have to deal with it.

"All of us (the GB team) have been to championships before, some more than others, but we are very well prepared for it.

"It is amazing to be here. I am massively proud of being in London, the whole venue is great, and hopefully, we (riders) can make it even better."

Germany will go into both team and individual competitions as gold medal favourites.

Germany are the reigning European champions, while their star rider Michael Jung is the first since Phillips to hold world and European titles simultaneously.

"It is not easy to predict," Phillips added, speaking at today's final pre-event British team press conference in Greenwich Park.

"It is going to be a close competition. Every nation has got fantastic combinations.

"The Germans are going to be the strongest, but I don't think they are anyone to be afraid of."

Phillips' grandmother, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry could be among the attendees in Greenwich during the Games.

Asked if The Queen had given her any advice Phillips replied: "Do you think I would tell you if she had?"

In the meantime, Phillips is relishing her first Games experience, which sees Great Britain's equestrian team staying in the Olympic village, unlike four years ago at the Beijing Games.

On that occasion the whole equestrian programme was held in Hong Kong.

"I did see Andy and Jamie Murray just walking around the village," she said. "It's fun trying to work out what sport everyone is in."

Phillips will not be among the British team, though, parading in tomorrow night's opening ceremony.

With their competition starting first thing on Saturday, the riders agreed to put preparations first, although they all had the option of making their own decisions.

"The build-up has been seven years," said British star William Fox-Pitt, eventing's current world number one.

"It has been a long time coming, and we are very excited to be here.

"And staying in the Olympic village, you really feel part of the team. This whole Games will bring equestrianism to a wider audience."

Greenwich Park is now all set to stage the first event of the Games' equestrian schedule, and it looked superb in today's sunshine as riders from across the world continued their preparations.

"This is truly an Olympic venue," British equestrian team leader Will Connell said.

"It is one I think will be remembered for many years. I really believe it is going to be a fantastic experience."

Great Britain has an agreed target with UK sport of three to four equestrian medals across the equestrian disciplines of eventing, dressage and showjumping.

And their Olympic eventing record is a strong one, with 17 post-war medals - nine individual and eight team - collected, so Phillips, Fox-Pitt, Mary King, Tina Cook and Nicola Wilson have a proud reputation to defend.

"The horses have settled in nicely and been doing some gentle exercises, and we had arena familiarisation today," Great Britain team manager Yogi Breisner said.

"And it is the most fabulous equestrian arena we have ever been in. It is very, very good."

PA

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