Riding the comeback trail

Updated: 2014-08-22 07:17

By Tym Glaser(China Daily)

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Equestrian royalty aiming to reclaim championship crown in Normandy

Zara Phillips, one of the world's best-known equestrians, is charging along the comeback trail and has her sights set on performing well at the FEI World Equestrian Games eventing event next week.

The British royal, granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II and godmother of Prince George, won individual gold and team silver at the 2006 event in Aachen and hopes to be close to that form in Normandy, France.

 Riding the comeback trail

Zara Phillips and High Kingdom clear an obstacle during the show-jumping phase of the eventing competition at the 2012 London Games. Adrian Dennis / Agence France-Presse File

"Well, it's been a few years (since the 2006 victory), but the horse (High Kingdom) is in good form and we've had a few good prep runs," Phillips told China Daily.

"There are still some things we have to work on but hopefully we are back to where we left off. Hopefully, we can do well out there as he is a good enough horse to do it."

Phillips only returned to the saddle in April after the birth of her daughter, Mia, in January.

Balancing a young family with a sporting career and numerous charitable engagements would seem a stretch but Phillips manages it in her stride.

"When you have got all those things going on, you look back and think about how much time you used to have. But it all fits in very well. I can ride and look after Mia as well; it's all very flexible," she said.

"There are lots of other kids on the circuit as well, so it's a great place to be."

Phillips grew up in that same environment as her mother, Princess Anne, was an Olympic-caliber equestrian who competed at the 1976 Games in Montreal.

Phillips' Olympic dreams in 2004 and 2008 were thwarted by an injury to her horse, Toytown, but she came back with a vengeance on her home turf with High Kingdom to claim silver in team eventing for the host side at the 2012 London Games.

"It was hugely disappointing (missing out on those Olympics). In 2004 he (Toytown) was on the long list and not sure of going. In 2008, he was a horse definitely good enough to be in the Olympics and it was just sad. You put all that work into a horse and he injures himself so, yes, it was massively disappointing."

However, London eased some of that anguish.

"It was amazing to get to the Olympics and ride on home turf," she said. "It was a fantastic championship to be involved in and to get a medal made it even better."

Rio 2016 is only two years away and she has also cast a glance in that direction.

"Hopefully I can compete for a little while longer," the 31-year-old said with a laugh. "I am just looking forward to the next couple of years and keep going, hopefully. I hope to (compete at Rio 2016) as long as I have got a good horse and I have good enough results to be selected."

The equestrian scene in China is still in its infancy and Phillips, 15th in line to the throne, says she knows little about the sport here outside of the fact that Chinese rider Alex Hua Tian has been making quite an impression in Europe and will also be competing in Normandy.

"I know Alex is based over here and doing very well for China ... and obviously the 2008 Olympics event was in Hong Kong. I don't know too much about it, but it would be very interesting to see how things are done out there."

However, she said the three-faceted sport, which includes dressage, cross-country and show jumping, should appeal to Chinese.

"For one, you are working with an animal and you have got to create your relationship with them. Merge together, train together and teach each other things.

"I think it is massively beneficial to kids as well; growing up it really helps with everything, social (relationships) and exercise and everything you can really ever want," she said.

Zara Phillips factfile

Name: Zara Anne Elizabeth Phillips

Born: May 15, 1983 (31)

Family connections: husband Mike Tindall (wed 2011), daughter Mia Grace Tindall (born 2014), grandmother Queen Elizabeth II, mother Princess Anne, father Captain Mark Phillips, cousins Prince William and Prince Harry, godmother of Prince George

Career highlights: Olympic silver medal at 2012 London Games in team eventing; World Championships gold in individual eventing at Aachen 2006, silver in team eventing at Aachen 2006; European Championships gold in individual and team eventing at Blenheim 2005, gold in team eventing at Pratoni del Vivaro 2007.

Honors: MBE in 2007 for services to equestrianism; 2006 BBC Sports Personality of the Year, carried Olympic flame in 2012 on her horse, Toytown, at Cheltenham racecourse.


(China Daily 08/22/2014 page24)