Germans claim gold ... twice
MARKOPOULO, Greece -- On the road to gold, they jumped over more hurdles and obstacles than their high-performance steeds.
Germany's riders won the gold medal Wednesday in the grueling three-day event -- but not before losing it, and then winning it back, in a bizarre flurry of judging decisions and reversals.
The United States, Britain and France -- the three teams caught in the middle of the judges' indecision -- vowed to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, hoping to reverse a dramatic turnabout that for a fleeting moment gave the U.S. team the bronze in horsemanship's equivalent of the decathlon.
It was a day of confusion that seemed out of place in equestrian, a sport known for its elegance, poise and politesse.
First, the judges gave Germany the gold and France the silver, while Britain took bronze.
But the same officials, concerned that Germany's Bettina Hoy might have crossed the start line twice on the show jumping course, decided to probe further.
The judges then decided to dock Germany 14 points, dropping it from first place to fourth with 147.8 points in a decision that lifted the United States to third and the bronze.
Germany then lodged a protest, an equestrian appeals committee reversed the decision of the judges -- and the Germans reclaimed their gold. Once again, France was awarded the silver and Britain the bronze. The United States was left empty-handed.
"The ground jury itself realized there had been irregularities and decided to investigate what had happened,'' Hugh Thomas of Britain, an appeals committee member, said late Wednesday.
Lost in the shuffle was the United States, which fell out of medal contention when Kim Severson rolled the top plank off the last jump in the show-jumping phase of the team event.
In its review, the appeals committee noted that the timer that runs during the event had not started when Hoy, atop Ringwood Cockatoo, was signaled to begin her round.
"When the bell rang, you have 45 seconds to start,'' Hoy said. "I saw on the clock I still had time, and so I made another circle.''
Thomas defended Hoy, who went on to win the individual three-day gold Wednesday night. Leslie Law of Britain won the silver aboard Shear L'Eau, and America's Severson on Winsome Adante took the bronze.
Hoy "had every reason to believe that the clock had been reset,'' Thomas said. "We have to make sure the rider has not been put to a disadvantage by something we have done. If she or anyone in the stadium had looked at the clock, they would not have believed that the round had started.''
But Britain, France and the United States will appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The appeal will be made jointly with British and American teams, said Henri Serandour, president of the French Olympic Committee, after a meeting with the other teams early Thursday.
"I want to know why at one moment were given the gold medal and then they gave us silver,'' Serandour said.
An appeal to the CAS was unlikely to reverse the confusing chain of events, Thomas said.
"The CAS follows the International Equestrian Federation rules and regulations,'' Thomas said. "The CAS is bound by that. My understanding is that there is not appeal against the appeals committee.''
David O'Connor, a former equestrian gold medalist and adviser to the American team, said he regretted the appeals committee's decision and the furor it caused.
"The hard part is that it takes away from the efforts of their lifetime to get here,'' he said of the affected riders. "I find that very sad.''
The three-day event originally was devised as a way to test cavalry horses.
It includes competition focusing on the school figures of dressage on the first day, cross-country jumping on the second and stadium jumping on the third day, which is designed to test a horse's ability to recover from the rigors of day two.
The 25 highest placed riders after the team competition return to show jump a second time to determine the individual medals.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press