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Rediff.com  » Sports » Queen's granddaughter aims for Athens

Queen's granddaughter aims for Athens

March 02, 2004 21:08 IST

Queen Elizabeth II's granddaughter Zara Phillips has revealed that she is on tenterhooks as she waits to see if she is selected for the equestrian team representing the United Kingdom in this year's Athens Olympics.

Zara, 22, also revealed in an interview published in UK magazines that her cousins, Prince William and Prince Harry, have been extremely supportive of her efforts to establish herself as a wold-class horsewoman.

"The boys, my cousins Prince William and Prince Harry, said, 'Oh my God, I didn't realise you were this good'," Zara explained. "I said, 'Thanks guys'."

The British royal family is famously passionate about horses. Queen Elizabeth herself still rides a horse on ceremonial occasions. Zara's mother, Princess Anne, was a member of the UK equestrian team at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Zara's father, Captain Mark Philips, won gold at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

"Getting to the Olympics would be pretty cool," Zara said. "It's special to be selected for your country and I enjoy being part of a team... I've realised how much Mum and Dad's achievements mean. People say to me, 'Oh, your parents did so well, so will you.'

"There are good and bad sides to it -- it's not good to have so many comparisons because of the pressures it can create. My parents are aware of it too, and don't expect me to do well just because they did."

Zara is one of the few members of the British royal family to be untouched by scandal. Although she attracted media attention for living for two years with her then boyfriend, jockey Richard Johnson, she is an innocent compared to some of her relatives.

Two of her uncles, Prince Charles and Prince Andrew, are divorced and Charles still carries the burden of his adulterous affair with Camilla Parker Bowles. Zara's own mother, Princess Anne, is also a divorcee.

The latest to enter the long list of royal scandals is Zara's first cousin, Prince Harry, who was recently criticised for his boorish, drunken, and lecherous antics in public places.

Zara by contrast comes across as an English rose and a soon-to-be recognised sportswoman of the highest international calibre. In the longer term she may also prove to be the salvation of the royal house of Windsor.

Devoted to her grandmother, she says Queen Elizabeth has never been to see her at any equestrian competitions, but "she does follow my progress and we do chat regularly.

"I often call her and tell her what my horse has been up to. Although she's the queen, she's my grandmother and we don't have a different relationship because of who she is. She knows all the horses and likes to find out what's going on."

Shyam Bhatia in London