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Severson Moves Up To Third After Cross-Country Phase of Eventing Competition

Equestrian Olympics

After today's cross-country phase, Kimberly Severson of Keene, VA moved up to third after a picture perfect cross-country round on a day that provided perfect conditions for both horse and rider. Her score of 36.2 after her dressage round remained intact today as she sped through the cross-country without any penalties. Her round of 9:30 was the second fastest of the day, and she jumped well within the required 9 minutes and 46 seconds required. She is in definite contention for an individual medal.

Nicolas Touzaint of France remains in first place with a score of 29.40. Bettina Hoy of Germany is in second place with 35.60, Jean Teulere of France is fourth with 38.40.

In fourth place, the U.S. team is just four points off third. After cross-country, France has now moved up to first place, with Germany and Great Britain in second and third. The top five team scores are as follows:

France 113.40
Germany 119.60
Great Britain 125.60
United States 129.60
Australia 135.40

The final phase of eventing competition is tomorrow, August 18th, with the team and individual stadium jumping beginning at 3:30 pm at the Markopoulo Equestrian Center.

Today's Play by Play

“Perfect.” “Incredible.” “Amazing.” Words used to describe both the experience and the rides during the cross-country phase of the eventing competition at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Some wondered if the horses were working up enough of a sweat, since they were being treated to a third straight day of unseasonably cool weather, a nice change of pace from the usual 90 to 100 degree-plus temperatures for Athens.

Four of the top ten riders picked up time penalties to add to their dressage scores. Among them, Britain’s Pippa Funnell who went from her second place seating after the dressage competition down to eighth, picking up 11.20 penalties to end at a two-day total of 42.60.

For the Americans, Julie Richards and Jacob Two Two had a much better day on cross-country as compared to her wind-blown dressage test. Picking up 1.60 time penalties and going clear over the jumps, she finished the day at 36th going into Wednesday’s jump test – the third and final day of eventing.

Having a bit of a slip at the second element at the water jump, she said, “There isn’t much on the course there to help him, and he did slide. I was just focused on going forward.”

Going into the final show jumping test, Richards was upbeat and optimistic. “I felt great, and my horse is really known for his show jumping, and if I keep my head together…it should be terrific,” she said. She made mention of the day’s course, saying that she thought it was “just a great, very rideable course.”

Credit was quickly given to her mount, Jacob Two Two, the Canadian Thoroughbred gelding. “He’s just the most amazing horse I’ve ever ridden. He has the biggest heart and he answers every question,” she said. With a wide smile she added, “There are some times I don’t even feel like he needs me up there.”

Amy Tryon of Washington State, and her Thoroughbred gelding Poggio II, moved up from 29th place to finish the day at 22nd. Picking up only 1.20 time penalties, the pairing posted a time of 9:49, loosing a few seconds in the last third of the course.

“I felt the turns were a little bit harder and we did slip a little,” she said. “I was being a little careful…I didn’t want to fall down. It seems the course rode a little slower…If you are 60 meters up on your minute markers on the first part, don’t slow down because you are going to need that time coming around.”

Tryon took nothing for granted in her cross-country test. “When you put everything into it and there is the pressure of it being the Olympic Games, you have to work fast and put in a score, and there are plenty of places to trip up out there. You don’t take any fences for granted,” she shared. “There is a lot of pressure to get out there and get the job done, it doesn’t matter what the course is.”

Her mount did not escape her praise for his performance. “He’s very strong and he’s a brave horse, and my biggest thing has been to put my hands down and let him go at the pace he wants to go at, because when I start fighting with him, he gets more and more rank,” she said candidly. “You have to let him do what he does well. I have tremendous faith in that horse. If you can get him into a jump with his ears between the flags, he will pop over it. It’s more of me staying out of his way and letting him use his ability.”

The third American to go today over the course was New York State’s Darren Chiacchia with Windfall 2. In a great round, Chiacchia and his Trakehner stallion cruised through the course, posting a time of 9:45 – one second within the allowed time for the 5,570-meter course. His clear round, combined with his dressage score, moved him up in the rankings from 15th (after dressage) to 12th.

Mentioning his time for the day and the newly-instituted modified cross-country format, he said, “It was tough to make, and that’s one thing we know about this new format – the jumps just keep coming, so you can’t afford to ride backwards at a couple of them and make up the time somewhere else.” Chiacchia’s focus and skill proved on target today as he kept his mount at a good rhythm and rolling forward.

“He’s such a clever, clever horse,” he added, noting that there was a bit of an off-step at the first water combination. “I was trying to get a little more communication going with him before the water, and he [Windfall 2] was like, ‘Let me at it! Let me at it!’”

Giving consideration to the fact that this is a new track and not unlike the one the pair faced in Spain at the World Equestrian Games in 2002, he said, “These kinds of turfs that are newly laid feel great for you to walk on, but the horse pushes through…and it gives way. So in these turning questions, he lost his footing…but he recovered from his slip, and that is what you can count on him to do. He’s just so keen to do his job that even in an awkward moment he can fight his way out of it.” This was a situation that many of the riders faced, not only at the water, but throughout the course.

Moving up from 27th place after dressage to 19th place was Team USA member John Williams and his Thoroughbred-cross gelding, Carrick. The Virginian was very happy with his ride and felt he was “spot on” today. However, he was a little surprised to see his time at the end, picking up 1.20 time penalties on a time of 9:49.

He was honest in his estimation of the course saying, “It rode much easier than it should have.” But the competitor/course designer was quick to give praise to the designer of the cross-country site at Markopoulo.

“He did a wonderful job really, considering with what he had to work with. It is a bit cramped.” said Williams. “After all, it is a new format.” Williams was just one of the competitors making mention of the less strenuous test, having eliminated two sections of the “standard” four-star test – the roads & tracks and the steeplechase.

He did note that with so many clean rounds, in his estimation, the competition ends up being about the dressage and show jumping. In short, with the fact that only three out of five scores count in the team standings, that leaves things unbalanced once you add in the new modified and shortened cross-country format.

An interesting moment in the day came when German rider Ingrid Klimke fell on the cross-country test, yet received no penalties. Having not taken her tumble while attempting a jump, she did not receive 65 penalty points. Klimke ended up posting the day’s fastest clear time in 9:27. This time moved her up two spots from eighth place to sixth – just three positions outside the medal’s podium.

Pippa Funnell of Great Britain took a tumble from her post-dressage ranking of second place down to eighth. Along with her eventing Grand Slam horse Primmore’s Pride, the pair put in a time of 10:14, including her 11.20 time penalties.

The final American of the day was another Virginian, Kim Severson and Winsome Adante, who posted the second fastest time of the day with 9:30 and no penalties. They flew through the course, putting them within arm’s reach of a spot on the medal podium on Wednesday night.

Pleased with their effort, Severson said, “Today could have gone one way or the other. But the time and the jumps were doable, as long as you get the chance.”

“I was extremely fast – faster than maybe I would have wanted to be. It would have been hard to make it up after the eight-minute mark. You didn’t want to be down then. But with me, I get worried about being late,” she said.

The new turf gave few problems. “There were a few places they have irrigated a lot. And he [Winsome Adante] slipped more than I was anticipating, especially on some of the turns, and the two tables. But he jumped really well for me.”

Commenting, as many others had done, on the standard set by the course in terms of it being “four-star-worthy,” Severson added, “It’s always been my impression that an Olympic Games were not supposed to be a four-star course. You have to consider everyone who is jumping around it. I did think that there were some really good questions – those boats made me think about it quite a bit! That was tough.”

“In hindsight, you could have said, ‘He [the course designer] could have made things a lot harder,’ but for not knowing enough about the new format, I think he did the right thing and made the right decisions,” she honestly shared.

But at the end of the second phase of eventing, Frenchman Nicolas Touzaint and Galan de Sauvagere are poised for a Gold medal, barring any mishaps during show jumping tomorrow. The pair maintains their score of just 29.4 after a clean cross-country round.

Four riders found themselves eliminated from the competition at the end of today’s cross-country test: Andreas Zehrer (Austria); Viorel Bubau (Romania); Joris van Springel (Belgium); and Arnaud Boiteau (France).

All eyes now turn to the new show jumping stadium at Markopoulo Equestrian Center tomorrow as the remaining 71 eventers tackle a yet-unseen series of jumps to determine who will stand high upon the medal podium, laying their claim to the Gold, Silver and Bronze medal placings.

First the horses will be presented for soundness in the morning, and with all going well, they will enter their final phase of the eventing competition beginning at 3:30 ppm Eastern European Summer Time.