Olympic campaign gets off to promising start for Pippa Funnell
- Credit: AP
British star Pippa Funnell believes that the potentially pivotal cross-country phase of Rio's Olympic evening competition could prove 'a very tactical game' as riders prepare to tackle a demanding course in Deodoro.
Funnell and her Great Britain colleagues William Fox-Pitt, Gemma Tattersall and Kitty King ended the dressage phase just outside the podium places in fourth spot, but Fox-Pitt still leads the individual competition aboard Chilli Morning.
Funnell produced a dressage score of 43.9 penalties on Billy The Biz, while Olympic debutant King posted 46.8 with Ceylor LAN, but attention now turns to today's cross-country examination that could make or break all contenders' medal prospects.
Going into it, Fox-Pitt holds an advantage of just 0.6 penalties from Australia's Christopher Burton, with French challenger Mathieu Lemoine third, closely followed by German powerhouses Ingrid Klimke and Michael Jung.
'The course is a big ask,' said Funnell, who is competing at her first Olympics since Athens 12 years ago.
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'It's a very good track, a meaty track, and there is no denying it will be the horse's biggest challenge.
'It is a course we are all going to have to ride with our heads, and we've got to really know all the routes. I think it could well be a very tactical game today. How will the heat affect them? How is the course riding? We've got to know the A, B and C – and probably even the D – plan.
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'I am going to set out and ride him like the good horse I believe he is.'
Funnell's dressage performance helped keep Britain firmly in the medal mix behind leaders Germany, whose advantage over France is only 0.2 penalties, with Australia third, and she added: 'I was really thrilled with him. You always know with him that if you suddenly ask him to canter, he can have a little squeal, a little buck and a little wiggle of his head, and he did that a few times outside the arena.
'Three years ago, when he was scrabbling around, the only reason I started eventing him was a personal challenge to see if I could get a test out of him. He didn't know about dressage, so I am proud of him.'
Funnell left home at 16 to work at Little Palgrave Hall, near Swaffham, to train under Ruth McMullen and remained in Norfolk for around eight years.
The competition moves into its cross-country phase today.
• Great Britain's women enjoyed an ideal start to their hockey campaign with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Australia in Pool B in Rio.
Having lost 4-1 to the same opponents in the Champions Trophy at the end of June, Danny Kerry's side exacted a measure of revenge on their arch rivals through superb goals from Lily Owsley and Alex Danson. The men lost 4-1 to Belgium on Saturday.