The British eventing team selectors have chosen a highly experienced team for the Athens Olympics with four of the five team members having represented Britain at previous Olympic Games.
Grand Slam winner Pippa Funnell (Primmore’s Pride) and Badminton champion William Fox-Pitt (Tamarillo) will lead the British event team’s challenge for Olympic gold in Athens in August.
They are accompanied by Sydney team silver medal-winning riders Leslie Law, who will be riding Shear L’Eau, and Jeanette Brakewell with Over To You, which will be one of the most experienced combinations in the Olympic competition. The new face of the team is Sarah Cutteridge, who will be riding The Wexford Lady when she faces the Olympic challenge for the first time.
Mary King (King Solomon III), Polly Stockton (Tangleman) and Bumble Thomas (The Psephologist) are the three reserves, one of which will be chosen to accompany the team to Athens as the travelling reserve.
Despite a disappointing performance at Badminton, Pippa Funnell remains one of the favourites for an individual gold medal and has two reserve horses, Cornerman and Supreme Rock, should anything occur to rule out Primmore’s Pride.
William Fox-Pitt, who represented Britain at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, has three horses to fall back on should Tamarillo be unable to compete in Athens. They are Ballincoola and Coastal Ties, who both performed well at Lexington in April, and Tom Cruise, who won Luhmuhlen and Boekelo international three-day events last year.
Leslie Law has been an established member of the British team since 2000 and clinched his place in the squad for Athens with a superb path-finding performance with Shear L’Eau in last year’s European Championships.
Jeanette Brakewell and Over To You have won three European team gold medals as well as individual silver at the World Equestrian Games in 2002. They made amends for their uncharacteristic fall at Punchestown last year with a great performance at Badminton this year.
Sarah Cutteridge, 30, is a graduate of the World Class Start and Potential programme and will be making her debut in a major international championship although she has successfully represented Britain at junior and young rider level. The former national junior and young rider champion has shown impressive form over the past 12 months, including sixth place in last year’s British Open Championship at Gatcombe, fifth place at Burghley in 2003 and eighth at Badminton this year.
“The team has been going very well over the last few years,” said British team manager Yogi Breisner. “I believe we can go one better than in Sydney, and each of the riders is good enough to feature among the individual medals. It will be a very tough competition and we will take nothing for granted, but we have a talented team of riders and horses who have already proved themselves at the highest level.”
All five riders will compete in the team and individual competitions in Athens, which will run concurrently. The best three scores count towards the team competition and the top 25 individuals (within a maximum of three riders per country) after the three phases of dressage, cross-country and show jumping will then compete over a second show jumping course to decide the individual medals.
The Olympic eventing competition will take place at the Markopoulo Olympic Equestrian Centre from 15-18 August, 2004 and will be in the new Olympic eventing format without the roads and tracks and steeplechase phases.