Severson within one rail of second place


MARKOPOULO, Greece -- American Kim Severson rode into medal
contention and the U.S. team moved within reach of silver Tuesday
in the three-day equestrian event, horsemanship's equivalent of the

The three-day event, which is to conclude Wednesday, is a
demanding test of skill and stamina that originally was devised as
the test of a cavalry horse.

Severson was third with 36.2 penalty points after a lightening
fast cross-country round. The rider from Keene, Va., on Winsome
Adante, added no jumping or time penalty points to her dressage
score and moved up from fourth.

"I had more horse all the way round the course than I'm used
to,'' said Severson. "He went right out of the start box. He was
stronger than I've ever had him before. I got lucky a few times
because he wasn't backing off the jumps.''

The U.S. team was fourth with 135.4 points but within reach of
silver depending on what happens during Wednesday's show jumping.

The five U.S. riders had the best overall results in the
cross-country phase, including no penalty points at the jumps, but
their disappointing scores from the first dressage phase should
keep them from gold. The course also rode more easily than
expected, so fewer riders from other teams dropped down after

Nicolas Touzaint of France is the current individual leader on
Galan de Sauvagere, also adding no time or jumping penalties to his
dressage score of 29.4. Bettina Hoy of Germany had 3.6 time
penalties and is currently second on Ringwood Cockatoo with 35.6.

Stadium jumping counts four penalty points for a dropped jump
rail, so Severson is within one rail of catching Hoy for silver.
Six other riders are bunched close behind them.

France leads the team standings with 113.4 penalty points,
followed by Germany with 119.6 and Britain with 125.6. The lowest
three rider scores count for the team total.

Darren Chiacchia of Ocala, Fla., was the other U.S. rider to
finish the course without time penalties on Windfall 2 and is
currently 12th.

John Williams of Middleburg, Va., added only 1.2 time penalties
on Carrick and is currently 19th. Amy Tryon of Duvall, Wash., also
added 1.2 time penalties on Poggio II and is 22nd. Julie Richards
of Atlanta added 1.6 time penalties, moving up 20 places after
dressage to 36th.

"I didn't want to make mistakes,'' said Tryon. "With the
pressure of the Olympics and having to go fast, I didn't take
anything for granted. Otherwise, it's a long ride home and a really
long winter.''

Equestrian sports are the only Olympic events where men and
women compete directly against each other. The team format has been
changed from previous Olympics, with five riders -- instead of four
-- now producing three low scores. The endurance portion before the
cross-country jumping has been eliminated, allowing horses to start
out on course much fresher. This puts more emphasis on dressage and
show jumping but less on cross-country, which was the heart of the
competition in the past.

The three-day event begins with the school figures of dressage,
which test submission. Cross-country jumping on the second day
tests speed and agility. Stadium jumping on the final day tests the
horses' ability to recover from the rigors of day two.

The horses have to pass a veterinary inspection Wednesday and
will then show jump to decide team medals. The top 25 riders at
that point will return to jump again to decide individual medals.