EQUESTRIAN American riders try for gold medal today



MARKOPOULO, Greece -- America's three-day equestrian team, which won the sport's world championship in 2002, will be riding for gold today when competition starts in horsemanship's equivalent of the decathlon.
"Our chances are excellent," said rider Darren Chiacchia of Ocala, Fla. "We have a strong team of horse-and-rider combinations that have proven themselves in international competition."
The United States, which won bronze in Sydney in 2000 and the World Equestrian Games two years later, sees Australia, Britain and France as its main competition. Australia is going for a record fourth straight Olympic team gold.
The three-day event is a demanding test of skill and stamina.
Dressage on the first day tests submission; cross-country jumping on the second day tests speed and agility; and stadium jumping on the third day tests the horses' ability to recover from the rigors of Day Two.
The U.S. team is leading off with Poggio II, ridden by Amy Tryon of Duvall, Wash., and Jacob Two Two, ridden by Julie Richards of Atlanta. The two horses are cross-country machines but are weaker in dressage.
The last U.S. horse to go Sunday will be Chiacchia's Windfall 2, who is particularly strong in dressage.
The dressage portion of the three-day event is being held over two days due to the number of entries. The United States is saving its best hopes for an individual medal to ride dressage on Monday, with John Williams of Middleburg, Va., on Carrick and Kim Severson of Keene, Va., on Winsome Adante. The order of go for dressage will be the same for cross country.
The format for the team three-day event has been changed from that of previous Olympics. There will be five riders on each team, up from the previous four, with the three lowest scores to count for team medals.
The endurance portion has been eliminated from Day 2, now just a 4-mile cross-country course with 34 fixed obstacles that should take around 91/2 minutes to navigate.
Associated Press
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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