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Saturday, August 21, 2004
McDonald fifth in individual competition

Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Germany kept its run of equestrian gold medals intact Saturday, winning the team dressage at the Athens Games.

Germany has won the team gold at every Olympics since 1976, except for the boycotted 1980 games. It kept the streak going with an average team score of 74.653 percent.

Spain was second at 72.917 percent, and the United States took the bronze at 71.5 percent.

The drama over who would win the silver ended early, when Beatriz Ferrer-Salat scored 74.542 on Beauvalais to clinch the spot.

The U.S. medal hopes were buoyed early Saturday when Debbie McDonald of Hailey, Idaho, scored 73.375 percent on her mare Brentina, putting them briefly in the lead.

"I'm a little disappointed with the score,'' McDonald. "It felt very good to me. I couldn't ask more.''

The United States, however, couldn't quite dig its way out of the hole from its two lower scores on Friday.

Guenter Seidel of Del Mar, Calif., had scored 69.5 on Aragon, and Lisa Wilcox, who lives in Germany, scored 68.792. Wilcox and the U.S. team also had the disadvantage of drawing the first ride in the competition. The top three scores from four riders count for the medals.

The bronze medal came down to the last riders for the Dutch and the Americans. The anchor rider for the United States was Robert Dover of Lebanon, N.J., on Kennedy, and he put up a solid 71.625 percent.

"Team dressage is like watching a play,'' said Dover. "The play has momentum from the beginning. It's not so easy to pull yourself up from that position. We were hoping for more points to start with.

"Guenter did an amazing job with his young horse. I don't see how Debbie could have done more. Her scores should have reflected that. And I've seen Lisa do a similar test and receive many more points than that.''

McDonald is fifth going into the individual competition on Monday. Germany's Ulla Salzgeber leads on Rusty with 78.208 percent, followed by Ferrer-Salat. Anky van Grunsven of the Netherlands is third on Salinero with 74.208, and Germany's Martin Schaudt is fourth on Weltall.

Dover, who is ninth, and Seidel, in 16th, also will advance to the individual competition, which includes the top 25 riders after the team event. Wilcox, who finished 18th, won't be competing because each country is only allowed three entrants.

Dressage is horsemanship's equivalent of gymnastics, performed in an enclosed arena with no jumps. The horse is guided through difficult steps and gaits by only slight gestures from the rider.