Americans, Germans among favorites

ATHENS, Greece -- Beezie Madden and Peter Wylde put the
United States in line for an equestrian medal.

The two Americans had solid qualifying rounds Sunday in show
jumping, leaving the United States at the front of the pack heading
into the final round. Sixteen countries will compete for team
medals on Tuesday, with the top three scores by each team counting.

Madden and Wylde had the best showings by the four-member U.S.

"I have an incredible horse,'' Wylde said. "She just goes.
Plus there are three other great American horses and riders behind
me. It's comforting. It helps my confidence.''

Their main competition will come from Germany, whose riders
Sunday had two rounds with 1 time fault each, another with one rail
down and the fourth with two rails landing on the turf.

"We have felt great since the Olympic trials,'' said Madden.
"We look in top form. As to beating the Germans, it'll be whoever
has the best day. It will take all four riders having a good day.''

Other riders also pegged the German-American matchup as the one
for the gold.

"The Germans and U.S. have better horses,'' said Brazil's
Rodrigo Pessoa. "We will fight for third place with the Belgians,
Ireland and Sweden. With the individual medals, it's hard to say.''

McLain Ward of Brewster, N.Y., had no jumping faults and only 1
time fault on Sapphire in the qualifying round, while Chris Kappler
of Pittstown, N.J., was nearly as good on Royal Kaliber, knocking
down only one rail to count for 4 faults.

"I have a lot of confidence in my horse,'' said Kappler. "He
covers up my boo-boos.''

The jumping round Sunday was used to qualify riders for the
individual competition on Friday and to accustom the horses to the
arena. The top 45 riders after the team competition will go forward
to the individual final on Friday, where each team will only be
allowed three riders.