Strong winds unsettle some mounts

Updated: August 16, 2004, 2:58 AM ET
Associated Press

MARKOPOULO, Greece -- If at first you don't succeed, ride, ride again.

After a disappointing first day of dressage competition, the U.S. Olympic equestrian three-day team pinned its hopes for an individual medal on two top riders competing Monday: John Williams of Middleburg, Va., and Kim Severson of Keene, Va.

Williams, riding Carrick, and Severson, on Winsome Adante, will try to improve on Sunday's dressage debut, which ended with mixed success for the Americans.

Darren Chiacchia of Ocala, Fla., sits fourth on Windfall 2 after scoring 44.6 penalty points.

"I'm very proud of him," Chiacchia said. "There are now two phases to go."

But the other Americans didn't fare so well.

Amy Tryon of Duvall, Wash., finished 11th on Poggio II, earning a score of 50.6 penalty points. Julie Richards of Atlanta scored 65.4 on Jacob Two Two and is currently 28th.

The dressage portion of the three-day event -- equestrian's equivalent of the decathlon -- is being held over two days because of the number of entries.

Team scores mean little at this point because one three riders out of five have competed so far for some teams, but only two riders for others. Germany's riders Sunday claimed two of the top three places, with Bettina Hoy well ahead, earning 32.0 on Ringwood Cockatoo.

The strenuous cross-country jumping portion, which could eliminate many riders, will be held Tuesday. The final stadium jumping test comes on Wednesday, when both team and individual medals will be decided.

Williams and Severson are both serious contenders for individual medals and for raising the U.S. team score. The scores of a country's top three riders count for the team medals.

Winds gusting to 24 mph Sunday at the equestrian venue just east of Athens unsettled many of the horses as flags slapped and signs crashed down in the grandstand. Others horses were able to maintain their composure.

"The atmosphere caught him off guard," Richards said of her horse. "The flapping flags sounded like someone was stomping in the bleachers. I'm not going to dwell on it. My horse got selected on his jumping ability. I'm just going to focus on cross-country. I'll be the backup if we get unlucky with two others."

Tryon said she's looking forward to riding the cross-country course on Tuesday, Poggio's stronger phase.

"He's fast and a good jumper. This course is suited to him," she said. "Poggio's not talented on the flat. I'm really happy with him today."

Tryon, a firefighter and paramedic in Duvall, credited her co-workers back home who gave her their vacation time so that she could compete in Athens.

"I wouldn't be here without the guys I work with back home because they gave up their vacation time for me. I'd used mine up by the spring," she said.

Tryon has been in the eastern United States and in Europe since April, competing in selection trials and then training with the team.

The three-day event is a demanding test of skill and stamina.

Dressage on the first day tests submission; cross-country jumping on the second day tests speed and agility; and stadium jumping on the third day tests the horses' ability to recover from the rigors. Equestrian sports are the only Olympic events where men and women compete directly against each other.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press