Zara Phillips makes equestrian a royal affair | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 30.07.2012
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Zara Phillips makes equestrian a royal affair

Spoiled. Elitist. Over-hyped. Bratty. While those words have often been used to describe Zara Phillips, it hasn't stopped her from becoming the first British royal to compete in Olympic equestrian since 1976.

Zara Phillips is an avid equestrian, with a degree in equine science and multiple awards to prove it.

But whatever you do, don't ask her about her grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II.

What did Phillips think of her grandma "jumping" out of a helicopter with James Bond during Friday's opening ceremonies?

"I'm not going to answer that," she told reporters Sunday. She would answer "Sport," questions only, she added, before walking away.

In a sport often criticized for elitism, Phillips is about as elite as one can get. Fourteenth in line to the throne, the royal is competing in her own backyard. Literally.

Zara Phillips of Britain riding High Kingdom performs during the equestrian Eventing Individual Dressage Day 2 in the Greenwich Park during the London 2012 Olympic Games, July 29, 2012.

Phillips and High Kingdom came in 24th out of 70 riders Sunday

The equestrian events are being held at Greenwich Park, the oldest royal park in London dating back to 1433. The main arena sits in front of Queen's House, a 17th-century building designed as a summer palace for the royal family. Phillips told reporters it felt "amazing" to compete at such a place.

Unable to compete in 2004 and 2008 because of injuries to her horses, Phillips is the first royal to compete in London since her mother, Princess Anne, did so at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

Phillips wowed the crowd on Sunday, drawing massive cheers as she helped Britain earn third place, behind Germany and Australia. The spotlight was on her, but then again, it's a role she's been used to for 31 years.

In the spotlight

Phillips is no stranger to controversy. A favorite of British tabloids throughout her life, she's been known as the "rebel" of the royal family. She famously showed up to the 100th birthday of the Queen Mother with a pierced tongue, and her hard-partying ways led some to call her "Britain's Paris Hilton."

But that's all in the past now, it seems, after marrying rugby star Mike Tindall in 2011. Or is it?

The spotlight has embroiled Phillips in controversy on horseback, too. In 2008, she fell from her horse, Tsunami II, during a cross-country event in France, breaking her right collarbone. The horse broke its neck and was euthanized.

A member of the Equestrian team Great Britain and the Queen's granddaughter Zara Phillips speaks to reporters during a press conference at King William Theatre in London Tuesday June 19, 2012.

Phillips is no stranger to the spotlight

Then there's this year. Some have accused Phillips of being chosen for Britain's eventing squad simply because of her royal status. Others argue that's not the case, citing that Phillips won a gold medals at the European Eventing Championship in 2005 and at the 2006 World Equestrian Games.

"Some say the decision to pick Zara is a piece of star-struck tokenism, or that she got the sympathy vote for missing out before," wrote "The Daily Telegraph" reporter Pippa Cuckson.

As if to silence doubters, Phillips performed well on the first day of competition, coming in 24th place out of 70 riders in the dressage portion of the three-day long event. Royalty cheering her on Sunday from the VIP section included Prince Philip - Elizabeth II's husband - and Princess Anne, wearing a bright red canvas hat. Phillips' father, Capt. Mark Phillips, currently the coach of the US equestrian team, was also on hand.

Relishing the challenge

Monday is an entirely different challenge. The thrilling cross country portion is designed to test a horse and rider's endurance and guts - and the 5.7-kilometer (3.5-mile) course featuring no less than 28 fences, hedges and water jumps should do the trick.

Phillips, though, said she relishes the challenge. She said her horse High Kingdom, an 11-year-old bay gelding, was looking forward to the cross-country portion, a timed competition with penalties added for refusals, falls and times that exceed the 10 minute, 3 second pace.

“He's a good jumper, that's his stronger phase,” she told The Associated Press. “He's quite quick and easy to turn so hopefully it'll be good.”

Monday afternoon saw more royalty in the crowd, with princes William and Harry on hand as well as the newest royal, Kate Middleton. Camilla - wife of Prince Charles - and Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie also appeared. The paparazzi, unsurprisingly, was out in droves.

Author: Benjamin Mack
Editor: Rina Goldenberg

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