British royal and Olympic eventing rider Zara Phillips took a swipe at the media on Thursday and stressed that her drive to compete with the world’s best was all about the sport,not the limelight.
Phillips,granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II,was peppered with a disproportionate number of questions at a team news conference ahead of the Saturday start of the London Olympic eventing competition.
She handled the barrage with good humour,winning a burst of laughter when she told a reporter who asked if it would feel weird to her to have Princes William and Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge in the audience: Obviously they’re my family so it’s not weird.
But a later question about whether a desire to avoid the spotlight had given her pause for thought before entering such a high-profile sport as equestrian met with a sharper response.
I didn’t really think about the media. It’s all about the sport and the love of sport and being competitive, she said.
I really don’t enjoy the media because everything is printed wrong and so it doesn’t really matter what you say. But the media have got nothing to do with your ambition and your competitiveness and your wanting to win.
The British eventing horses are now at Greenwich Park and have settled into the stables ahead of Saturday,when the first leg of the multi-day competition begins with two days of dressage tests — where horses are put through a pre-set series of movements in a small arena.
Monday will see the horse-rider pairings tested in the demanding cross-country leg,in which the fences are solid and horses are more likely to fall than the obstacles.
The competition wraps up on Tuesday with the jumping segment,when riders must show that their horses can be careful as well as fearless as they take them over delicately balanced poles and bricks that clatter to the ground if hit.
The horses are inspected for fitness before and after the competition. The first inspection takes place on Friday and the team will miss the Opening Ceremony.
Chef d’Equipe Yogi Breisner said he felt good about the British squad but that a lot depends on the other nations. Now all that counted was getting the horses into the arena at the top of their form.
The main concern is always in a competition like this that you are going to keep the horses fit and healthy throughout and that you’re not going to get up against any untowards bad luck,as it were,because it’s a long competition, he said.
I think we’ve got an extremely strong team.
Team veteran Mary King is riding in her sixth Olympics and said she was already looking forward to making a seventh Olympic appearance in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
This is the fourth Games for William Fox-Pitt,the top-ranked rider in eventing this year,and the first for Nicola Wilson,a late cap named after Georgina French’s horse DHI Topper W succumbed to injury.
Kristina Cook is riding in her second Olympics after winning team and individual bronze medals in the Beijing Games on the horse she will ride in London,Miners Frolic.
The bay thoroughbred has bounced back tremendously after a serious case of colitis last year,Cook told reporters.
We weren’t expecting him at all to be here so yes,it is surreal and we take each day at a time but overall it’s very exciting and the horse is well — very well — and feels amazing,she said.
Asked to assess the strength of other teams,Phillips said the Germans are always strong. She also rated New Zealand — the team of double gold medallist Mark Todd — very highly.
A lot of them (the New Zealanders) are based over here now so we get to see them every day and we’re competing against them week in,week out. And they’re definitely coming back to form so we definitely need to watch out for them, she said.