Queen Elizabeth II’s granddaughter, Zara Phillips of Great Britain, rides her horse High Kingdom during the equestrian eventing cross-country phase Monday at Greenwich Park during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Phillips put together a mistake-free round Monday to push the Brits up to second place behind Germany with the finals slated for today.
LONDON — Zara Phillips had a few things to celebrate Monday: Her first wedding anniversary — and a penalty-free ride through the treacherous cross-country portion of the Olympic equestrian eventing competition that counted toward Britain’s second-place finish going into the final round.
Her cousins, Princes William and Harry, donned “Team GB” polo shirts and joined an estimated 50,000 less-regal fans in Greenwich Park to root for Phillips as she negotiated her horse over 28 obstacles and a slippery course that claimed a dozen fallen riders.
“The crowd was unbelievable!” Phillips said after she finished Day 2 of her Olympic equestrian debut. “I hope I didn’t take any heads off on the way cutting corners.”
On Sunday, Phillips’ grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh, joined her mother in the VIP stands to watch her earn a respectable score in the dressage portion of her Olympic debut. After cross-country, she’ll compete in show jumping today, the final portion of eventing. The big question is whether her grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II — an accomplished equestrian in her own right — will come to watch.
Phillips’ ride Monday was one of the top three scores counted in Britain’s second-place standings going into today’s final show jumping round with 130.2 points. Germany led with 124.7 points and Sweden was third with 131.4. The United States was fifth with 155.2.
Phillips, a former world and European eventing champion who is 14th in line to the throne, said the only drawback to the raucous cheers was that she couldn’t hear the timer ticking on her wrist. Timer or not, her under-the-limit ride added no further penalty points to her 46.1 score from dressage a day earlier and left her tied for 10th place in the individual standings.
Like golf, the low score wins in equestrian eventing.
William and Harry watched from the main equestrian arena, joined by William’s wife, Kate, and Camilla, the wife of Prince Charles. Kate wore a white blouse and navy blue jacket, keeping in line with the Union Jack colors the royal family has worn to Olympic events so far.
Seated alongside William and Harry were Phillips’ other first cousins, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, the daughters of Prince Andrew.
Phillips’ mother, Princess Anne, herself a former Olympian eventing competitor, watched from the grounds of the twisty, hilly course dotted with 28 fences, hedges and water obstacles in Greenwich Park, London’s oldest royal park.
Phillips said her time — well inside the 10-minute, 3-second time limit — was particularly good given that her horse, High Kingdom, lost a shoe during the ride. That made it tougher for him to keep his footing and make the quick turns needed to complete the 5.7-kilometer (3.5-mile) course within the time limit.
“He did amazing,” she said. “He really grew up and stepped up to the plate.”
She mentioned that it was a special day for other reasons too: Last July 30, she married England rugby player Mike Tindall in the “other” royal wedding of 2011 that followed William and Kate’s nuptials.
The thrilling cross-country portion of the three-discipline eventing competition is designed to test horse and rider endurance — and guts — and the course up and down the hills of Greenwich Park fit the bill. There were razor-sharp turns in between jumps, blind 2-meter (6-foot) drops and tricky combination fences — each one designed with a very British story behind it.
The royals, including the Queen, were watching the competition on big screens inside the main arena; the course came into the arena itself for the 16th obstacle, a tricky combination jump that’s a miniature version of the Tower of London.