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New Zealand Misfortune Helps U.S.

September 19, 2000|From Times Wire Services

SYDNEY, Australia — The U.S. equestrian team won its first medal of the Sydney Games today, finishing with a bronze in the three-day event.

The U.S. riders put in three steady show-jumping rounds, scoring 175.0 to put them on the medal stand.

Australia won the gold with a score of 146.8. Britain finished second with 161.0.

U.S. anchor rider Karen O'Connor of The Plains, Va., dropped two jump rails on Prince Panache, who was stiff after the clean round he put in on the grueling cross-country course the day before.

"I was so proud of how hard Panache tried when he was so tired," O'Connor said.

O'Connor's husband, David, had a clean round on Giltedge, and Nina Fout of Middleburg, Va., had five time faults on 3 Magic Beans to clinch the bronze.

Chelsea Clinton was in the stands to cheer on the United States. She sat in front of Britain's Princess Anne.

The United States was in fourth place when the day started, but two New Zealand horses were lame after cross-country, dropping them from the competition.

One New Zealand horse was not presented for the vet inspection, and another horse, Reddy Teddy, ridden by Blyth Tait, failed its test. Tait believed the horse's disqualifying injury to be a stone bruise.

Because a team must finish with three of four horse-rider combinations, New Zealand was scratched from the competition. Tait and Reddy Teddy had won the individual three-day gold medal in Atlanta.

One U.S. horse, Anderoo, ridden by Linden Wiesman of Bluemont, Va., was eliminated after two falls on the cross-country course, but the remaining three U.S. horses passed inspection.

"Everyone is incredibly sorry for Blyth and the New Zealand team," U.S. team manager Jim Wolf said. "These people all compete together every weekend, and no one wants to contend for a medal this way."

Wolf said the U.S. horses all came through the night after cross-country in good condition. There were hugs and grins all around as the third U.S. horse passed the inspection.

"The horse is always the primary concern," Wolf said. "The inspection is a nervous moment for everyone. You need the eventing gods smiling on you because they can go south in a hurry."

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