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London Olympics 2012: Three-Day Eventing Preview

Five horse-and-rider combinations have been named to the 2012 U. S. Olympic Eventing Team, pending the approval of the U.S. Equestrian Federation Executive Committee and the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Board of Directors. The team features veterans like five-time Olympians Phillip Dutton and Karen O’Connor, as well as 24-year-old Tiana Coudray. The first of the three equestrian disciplines kicks off on Saturday, July 28th with the team and individual eventing competitions.

The team was selected based on overall performance at high-level events during the 2011/2012 season, so the horse-and-rider combinations do not necessarily reflect the top five finishers at the final selection trial last week in England. The following horses will undergo veterinary tests and the official team will be submitted to the U.S. Olympic committee on July 6.

U.S. Olympic Eventing Team

The Top Five: (in alphabetical order)

1. Will Coleman (Gordonsville, Va.) and Jim Wildasin’s Twizzel
2. Tiana Coudray (Ojai, Calif.) and Jatial Inc.’s Ringwood Magister
3. Phillip Dutton (West Grove, Pa.) and Jim and Arden Wildasin’s Mystery Whisper
4. Boyd Martin (Cochranville, Pa.) and the Otis Barbotiere Syndicate’s Otis Barbotiere
5. Karen O’Connor (Ocala, Fla.) and the Mr. Medicott Syndicate’s Mr. Medicott

The Riders and Horses:

Will Coleman and Twizzel have been a team since 2008. They took fifth at the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** in April and 34th at Barbury Castle last weekend. Based in Virginia, Coleman, 29, grew up fox hunting and show jumping. He trained with his current teammate Karen O’Connor and her husband, eventer David O’Connor, who helped Coleman progress from the ranks of Young Rider to international four-star competition. He has earned a spot on the USEF Olympic training list twice before (2004 and 2008), but this is the first year he’s been named to the short list.

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At 24 years old, Tiana Coudray on Ringwood Magister is the youngest member of the U.S. eventing squad, but has been competing on the 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse — that she trained herself — for several years with great success. In 2011 she won the Lionel Guerrand-Hermes Trophy, presented to a young rider in one of the Olympic disciplines who exemplifies both sportsmanship and horsemanship. She has been riding with international eventer Nick Gauntlett in Southwest England for the past year.

This will be Phillip Dutton’s fifth Olympic Games, and a chance for redemption following a disappointing finish four years ago in Beijing when he didn’t finish the final jumping round. Riding Mystery Whisper, Dutton, 49, is a top contender for U.S. gold. He previously won three team eventing gold medals for his native Australia (1992, 1996 and 2000), but has been living and training in Pennsylvania since 1991. This is the second Olympics during which he will compete for Team USA.

Boyd Martin, an Australian-born rider and the son of two former Olympians (Toa Martin, speedskating; Ross Martin, cross-country skiing), will ride Otis Barbotiere in his first bid for Olympic gold. Martin was originally predicted to ride Neville Bardos, a former racehorse who he bought for $850 and saved from a barn fire last May, but elected instead to ride Otis Barbotiere. Martin trains with fellow Olympic team member Phillip Dutton, who is also Martin’s coach and landlord.

London 2012 will be Karen O’Connor’s fifth bid at Olympic gold, following a disappointing result in the 2008 Olympics when she was forced to put down her top horse two weeks before the Olympics due to injury and ride a last-minute substitute. At 54 years old, O’Connor is the veteran of the team and will ride a similarly experienced Mr. Medicott, who represented Germany in previous Olympic and World Equestrian Games competitions.

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