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Rediff News  All News  » Sports » Royal Zara Phillips set to make Olympic equestrian debut

Royal Zara Phillips set to make Olympic equestrian debut

Last updated on: July 29, 2012 13:41 IST

Image: Zara Phillips of Great Britain and her horse High Kingdom are paraded during an Equestrian Eventing Horse Inspection session
Photographs: Alex Livesey / Getty Images

Zara Phillips is making her Olympic debut in equestrian eventing, and the gold-medal question is whether her grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, will head out to Greenwich Park on Sunday to watch her compete in the dressage portion of the competition.

- London Olympics - Live coverage

Aside from her grandmother, Phillips may count on other royals in the stands to cheer her on as she puts her horse High Kingdom through the paces of the standard test designed to demonstrate a horse's obedience. First cousins Princes William and Harry and William's wife Kate are expected to attend at least some portion of the competition.

And Phillips' mother, Princess Anne, is not only president of the British Olympic committee but a member of the International Olympic Committee and a former equestrian eventing Olympian herself. 

Royal Zara Phillips set to make Olympic equestrian debut

Image: Zara Phillips
Photographs: Jeff Gross / Getty Images

Anne competed in the 1976 Montreal Olympics but fell off her horse. Phillips father, Capt. Mark Phillips, fared better in his Olympic endeavors, winning team gold at Munich in 1972 and silver in Seoul 16 years later. He's now a top coach of the US equestrian team and is in London with the Americans.

In a recent BBC interview, Anne acknowledged the pressure British athletes were under competing on home turf.

"I'd hate to be doing it now -- that's all I can tell you!" she said.

But her 31-year-old daughter downplayed the pressure, telling reporters earlier in the week she would have no trouble competing with other royals in the stands.

"They're my family. It's not weird," she quipped. But she shied from the question of whether she had received any advice from her grandmother the queen, herself an equestrian enthusiast.

"Do you think I would tell you that?" she said.

Royal Zara Phillips set to make Olympic equestrian debut

Image: Zara Phillips of Great Britain rides High Kingdom
Photographs: Alex Livesey / Getty Images

Phillips had qualified for the 2008 Beijing Games but had to pull out after her horse Toytown got injured. British equestrian officials have stressed that Phillips is on the team because she's an excellent athlete, not because she's royal.

Phillips is 14th in line for the British throne but she and her older brother, Peter, have very low profiles in the royal family. They hold no royal titles -- unique among the queen's eight grandchildren -- after their mother turned down the monarch's offer of honors.

Nevertheless both are very much part of the royal family. The queen and Prince Phillip were honored guests at her wedding last year to international rugby star Mike Tindall.

Royal Zara Phillips set to make Olympic equestrian debut

Image: Zara Phillips, Nicola Wilson, William Fox-Pitt, Mary King and Kristina Cook of the British Equestrian team
Photographs: Clive Mason / Getty Images

In the first day of the dressage competition Saturday, Australia took the early lead with Germany and the United States close behind.

In the individual competition, Germany's Ingrid Klimke had a sparkling dressage test to score 39.3 penalty points, followed by teammate Dirk Schrade on King Artus with 39.8 and Mary King of Britain with 40.9 on Imperial Cavalier.

"I didn't think about the score," said Klimke. "That's up to the judges. My job was to ride a supple test."

Eventing standings are determined by lowest score. Each team includes up to five riders, with the combined scores of the three lowest riders to win team medals and the overall lowest riders to win individual honors.

Medals in both team and individual competitions will be presented Tuesday after the show jumping phase.
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