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Germans claim gold ... twice

MARKOPOULO, Greece -- On the road to gold, they jumped over more
hurdles and obstacles than their high-performance steeds.

Germany's riders won the gold medal Wednesday in the grueling
three-day event -- but not before losing it, and then winning it
back, in a bizarre flurry of judging decisions and reversals.

The United States, Britain and France -- the three teams caught
in the middle of the judges' indecision -- vowed to appeal to the
Court of Arbitration for Sport, hoping to reverse a dramatic
turnabout that for a fleeting moment gave the U.S. team the bronze
in horsemanship's equivalent of the decathlon.

It was a day of confusion that seemed out of place in
equestrian, a sport known for its elegance, poise and politesse.

First, the judges gave Germany the gold and France the silver,
while Britain took bronze.

But the same officials, concerned that Germany's Bettina Hoy
might have crossed the start line twice on the show jumping course,
decided to probe further.

The judges then decided to dock Germany 14 points, dropping it
from first place to fourth with 147.8 points in a decision that
lifted the United States to third and the bronze.

Germany then lodged a protest, an equestrian appeals committee
reversed the decision of the judges -- and the Germans reclaimed
their gold. Once again, France was awarded the silver and Britain
the bronze. The United States was left empty-handed.

"The ground jury itself realized there had been irregularities
and decided to investigate what had happened,'' Hugh Thomas of
Britain, an appeals committee member, said late Wednesday.

Lost in the shuffle was the United States, which fell out of
medal contention when Kim Severson rolled the top plank off the
last jump in the show-jumping phase of the team event.

In its review, the appeals committee noted that the timer that
runs during the event had not started when Hoy, atop Ringwood
Cockatoo, was signaled to begin her round.

"When the bell rang, you have 45 seconds to start,'' Hoy said.
"I saw on the clock I still had time, and so I made another
circle.''

Thomas defended Hoy, who went on to win the individual three-day
gold Wednesday night. Leslie Law of Britain won the silver aboard
Shear L'Eau, and America's Severson on Winsome Adante took the
bronze.

Hoy "had every reason to believe that the clock had been
reset,'' Thomas said. "We have to make sure the rider has not been
put to a disadvantage by something we have done. If she or anyone
in the stadium had looked at the clock, they would not have
believed that the round had started.''

But Britain, France and the United States will appeal the
decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The appeal will be made jointly with British and American teams,
said Henri Serandour, president of the French Olympic Committee,
after a meeting with the other teams early Thursday.

"I want to know why at one moment were given the gold medal and
then they gave us silver,'' Serandour said.

An appeal to the CAS was unlikely to reverse the confusing chain
of events, Thomas said.

"The CAS follows the International Equestrian Federation rules
and regulations,'' Thomas said. "The CAS is bound by that. My
understanding is that there is not appeal against the appeals
committee.''

David O'Connor, a former equestrian gold medalist and adviser to
the American team, said he regretted the appeals committee's
decision and the furor it caused.

"The hard part is that it takes away from the efforts of their
lifetime to get here,'' he said of the affected riders. "I find
that very sad.''

The three-day event originally was devised as a way to test
cavalry horses.

It includes competition focusing on the school figures of
dressage on the first day, cross-country jumping on the second and
stadium jumping on the third day, which is designed to test a
horse's ability to recover from the rigors of day two.

The 25 highest placed riders after the team competition return
to show jump a second time to determine the individual medals.