Americans, Germans among favorites

Updated: August 22, 2004, 11:54 AM ET

ATHENS, Greece -- Beezie Madden and Peter Wylde put the United States in line for an equestrian medal.

The two Americans had solid qualifying rounds Sunday in show jumping, leaving the United States at the front of the pack heading into the final round. Sixteen countries will compete for team medals on Tuesday, with the top three scores by each team counting.

Madden and Wylde had the best showings by the four-member U.S. team.

"I have an incredible horse,'' Wylde said. "She just goes. Plus there are three other great American horses and riders behind me. It's comforting. It helps my confidence.''

Their main competition will come from Germany, whose riders Sunday had two rounds with 1 time fault each, another with one rail down and the fourth with two rails landing on the turf.

"We have felt great since the Olympic trials,'' said Madden. "We look in top form. As to beating the Germans, it'll be whoever has the best day. It will take all four riders having a good day.''

Other riders also pegged the German-American matchup as the one for the gold.

"The Germans and U.S. have better horses,'' said Brazil's Rodrigo Pessoa. "We will fight for third place with the Belgians, Ireland and Sweden. With the individual medals, it's hard to say.''

McLain Ward of Brewster, N.Y., had no jumping faults and only 1 time fault on Sapphire in the qualifying round, while Chris Kappler of Pittstown, N.J., was nearly as good on Royal Kaliber, knocking down only one rail to count for 4 faults.

"I have a lot of confidence in my horse,'' said Kappler. "He covers up my boo-boos.''

The jumping round Sunday was used to qualify riders for the individual competition on Friday and to accustom the horses to the arena. The top 45 riders after the team competition will go forward to the individual final on Friday, where each team will only be allowed three riders.

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