Royal boost for UK Olympic team

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London - Queen Elizabeth’s granddaughter Zara Phillips has been nominated as part of the UK team for the London Olympics, the British Equestrian Federation said.

The 31-year-old won the coveted spot after a string of strong performances, particularly a third-place finish at Bramham last weekend on her horse, High Kingdom.

“It's awesome to be given this opportunity,” Phillips said in a statement on Monday. “I am really excited and can't wait to kick on and get him there.”

Phillips will be following in the footsteps of her parents - Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips - both of whom competed for Britain in the Olympics.

The nomination caps a long journey for Phillips, 14th in line to the throne. She won the World Championship in 2006, and was honoured by the queen, becoming a Member of the Order of the British Empire. Phillips was also chosen the BBC Sport Personality of the year.

She was selected to compete for the 2008 Beijing Olympics on Toytown, an exceptional horse which became injured just before the moment of glory dawned.

In the years since, Phillips suffered a dry spell, only to come charging back on a new horse last year. Just a few months ago, she was considered a long shot for the Olympic team, but has been consistent and on an upward trajectory.

“She's right up there with the best in the world,” said Lucy Higginson, the editor of the equestrian publication, Horse & Hound.

Phillips competes in three-day eventing, a gruelling sport that combines the disciplines of dressage, show jumping and cross country. Her horse is High Kingdom, a 16.2 hands high bay gelding that in recent weeks has helped her turn in consistent performances, including the strong third place finish at Bramham.

Higginson said High Kingdom, a thoroughbred, has great speed, an advantage on the London Olympic course at Greenwich.

“She's renowned for being quick,” Higginson said of Phillips. “She can handle pressure.”

Phillips described her horse as “a pretty cool, very relaxed kind of guy”.

“I was really happy with him at Bramham as he had obviously grown up and is improving all the time,” she said. “He's pretty pony-like, a nippy little jumper and easy to manoeuvre, so hopefully it will suit him well in Greenwich.

Her mother, Princess Anne, competed at the 1976 Montreal Games, while her father was a team gold medallist at Munich in 1972 and then won silver in Seoul 16 years later.

But make no mistake. Her parents and family or no, Phillips and the equestrian world had been adamant that she would be chosen only on merit. She had to prove herself - just like anyone else.

That's because Britain wants to win - and it normally does well in equestrian events.

Phillips has been chosen alongside William Fox-Pitt, Mary King, Piggy French and Tina Cook. - Sapa-AP


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