American Kim Severson rode into medal contention and the U.S. team moved within reach of silver Tuesday in the three-day equestrian event,
horsemanship's equivalent of the triathlon.
The three-day event, which is to conclude Wednesday, is a demanding test of skill and stamina that originally was devised as the test of a cavalry
Severson was third with 36.2 penalty points after a lightening fast cross-country round. The rider from Keene, Va., on Winsome Adante, added no
jumping or time penalty points to her dressage score and moved up from fourth.
"I had more horse all the way round the course than I'm used to,'' said Severson. "He went right out of the start box. He was stronger than I've ever
had him before. I got lucky a few times because he wasn't backing off the jumps.''
The U.S. team was fourth with 135.4 points but within reach of silver depending on what happens during Wednesday's show jumping.
The five U.S. riders had the best overall results in the cross-country phase, including no penalty points at the jumps, but their disappointing scores
from the first dressage phase should keep them from gold. The course also rode more easily than expected, so fewer riders from other teams dropped
down after dressage.
Nicolas Touzaint of France is the current individual leader on Galan de Sauvagere, also adding no time or jumping penalties to his dressage score of
29.4. Bettina Hoy of Germany had 3.6 time penalties and is currently second on Ringwood Cockatoo with 35.6.
Stadium jumping counts four penalty points for a dropped jump rail, so Severson is within one rail of catching Hoy for silver. Six other riders are
bunched close behind them.
France leads the team standings with 113.4 penalty points, followed by Germany with 119.6 and Britain with 125.6. The lowest three rider scores count
for the team total.
Darren Chiacchia of Ocala, Fla., was the other U.S. rider to finish the course without time penalties on Windfall 2 and is currently 12th.
John Williams of Middleburg, Va., added only 1.2 time penalties on Carrick and is currently 19th. Amy Tryon of Duvall, Wash., also added 1.2 time
penalties on Poggio II and is 22nd. Julie Richards of Atlanta added 1.6 time penalties, moving up 20 places after dressage to 36th.
"I didn't want to make mistakes,'' said Tryon. "With the pressure of the Olympics and having to go fast, I didn't take anything for granted.
Otherwise, it's a long ride home and a really long winter.''
Equestrian sports are the only Olympic events where men and women compete directly against each other. The team format has been changed from previous
Olympics, with five riders -- instead of four -- now producing three low scores. The endurance portion before the cross-country jumping has been
eliminated, allowing horses to start out on course much fresher. This puts more emphasis on dressage and show jumping but less on cross-country, which
was the heart of the competition in the past.
The three-day event begins with the school figures of dressage, which test submission. Cross-country jumping on the second day tests speed and
agility. Stadium jumping on the final day tests the horses' ability to recover from the rigors of day two.
The horses have to pass a veterinary inspection Wednesday and will then show jump to decide team medals. The top 25 riders at that point will return
to jump again to decide individual medals.