Stark to compete in fourth Olympics

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The Independent Online
Ian Stark is all set to compete in his fourth consecutive Olympic Games, having been named in the British Olympic squad announced yesterday. He will be riding the grey Stanwick Ghost, with whom he led after the cross- country at Badminton before dropping to sixth with two show jumping errors.

Stark already has three Olympic silver medals, two of which were awarded in 1988, when the team finished second, and he was the individual runner- up. He has every intention of going for gold this time.

Karen Dixon, one of Stark's team-mates in 1988 and 1992, has been chosen with Too Smart. Dixon cracked her shoulder blade in a fall 10 days ago, but is confident that she will be fit to ride when the squad goes to Hartpury for a final run on 21 June.

Britain can enter four horses for the team event and another three for the individual, which is being run as a separate competition for the first time. Bridget Parker, the chairman of selectors, regards the team medals as more important - but the British quartet will not be chosen until the horses are into their period of acclimatisation in Atlanta.

Barring problems, Mary King and Charlotte Bathe, who both helped to win the world and European Open team titles, are likely to be given a place in the team with their reliable cross-country horses, King William and The Cool Customer.

King and Bathe have already been to the Animal Health Trust at Newmarket, where their horses had tests on a treadmill under the simulated conditions of heat and humidity that are anticipated in Atlanta. Both came through it well. Bathe, whose The Cool Customer is now a 16-year-old, was glad to learn that age makes no apparent difference to how the horse copes.

Leslie Law, fourth and best placed of the British riders at Badminton on New Flavour, and William Fox-Pitt, who was in the victorious European Open team with Cosmopolitan II, will be going to their first Olympics. Both are talented riders, who have proved that they can keep a cool head under pressure.

All four members of the dressage team, also announced yesterday, are new to the Olympics. Jane Bredin, Richard Davison, Joanna Jackson and Vicky Thompson will be aiming for team bronze medals; they have no realistic hope of winning gold or silver unless some catastrophe befalls the German or Dutch dressage riders, who belong in a different class.

GREAT BRITAIN OLYMPIC RIDERS: Three-Day Event squad: C Bathe (The Cool Customer), K Dixon (Too Smart), W Fox-Pitt (Cosmopolitan II), C Hunnable (Mr Bootsie), M King (King William), L Law (New Flavour), G Parsonage (Magic Rogue), I Stark (Stanwick Ghost). Non-travelling reserve: L Jennings (Diamond Pedlar). Dressage team: J Bredin (Cupido), R Davison (Askari), J Jackson (Mester Mouse), V Thompson (Enfant). Non-travelling reserves: S Phlueger (Fun), Dr W Bechtolsheimer (Giorgione).