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Will Germany keep the gold?

ATHENS, Greece -- The horses were grinding their grain and
team officials their teeth at the Olympic equestrian venue
Thursday.

Riders and trainers waited for the next step in a rare drama for
the polite sport after Germany's riders won the gold medal
Wednesday in the three-day team event -- but not before losing it,
and then winning it back, in a bizarre flurry of judging decisions
and reversals.

France, Britain and the United States -- the three teams caught
in the middle of the judges' indecision -- said they would appeal to
the Court of Arbitration for Sport here to reverse the turnabout
that briefly gave the U.S. team the bronze in the equestrian
equivalent of the decathlon.

"All three teams have informed the Federation Equestre
Internationale (FEI) of their decision to proceed," the committees
said in a joint statement, adding that lawyers would file the
appeal in a few days.

Initially, 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,
then docked 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 judges' decision -- and the Germans reclaimed their
gold. Once again, France was awarded the silver and Britain the
bronze. The United States was left empty-handed.

"I want to know why at one moment we were given the gold medal
and then they gave us silver," French Olympic committee president
Henri Serandour said.

Hoy 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 Kim Severson on Winsome Adante took the bronze.

Meanwhile, the grand prix dressage riders and show jumpers -
specialists separate from the three-day team event - prepared for
their own events. Dressage begins Friday.

The dressage event is an equine mixture of gymnastics and ballet
dancing, performed in an enclosed ring.

Germany has reserved the top of the dressage podium for itself
since 1976, while the United States has been more than happy with
bronze since 1992. But after they won silver at the 2002 world
championships, they've quietly assessed their chances of getting
the same, or better, at the Olympics.

But there will be competition from the Netherlands' Anky van
Grunsven, who replaced her 2000 gold-winning mount Bonfire with
Salinero.

Germany will have Ulla Salzgeber riding Rusty, the individual
bronze medalist from Sydney.

The United States will be led by 2003 World Cup gold medalist
Debbie McDonald, riding Brentina, and Lisa Wilcox, who rides the
German-owned stallion Relevant.