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Backgrounder: Hopefuls for jumping team medals at equestrian Olympics
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10:01, August 16, 2008

The jumping competitions of the Olympic equestrian events started on Friday, with Germany as the hottest favorite for team gold.

Heading the German team is 39-year-old Meredith Michaels- Beerbaum, world No. 1 on the latest FEI (International Equestrian Federation) show jumper rankings and the first woman rider to turn World No. 1. She will be riding Shutterfly, a 15-year-old mare that has taken the rider to win multiple medals.

Michaels-Beerbaum, born American, was winner of team and individual bronzes at the 2006 Aachen World Equestrian Games and won individual champion earlier this year at the World Cup Final in Gothenburg, Sweden.

She was joined by her 45-year-old brother-in-law Ludger Beerbaum, who won the Olympic individual jumping gold in 1992 and led German squads to win the team golds at the Seoul, Atlanta and Sydney Games. Beerbaum was No. 4 on the latest FEI rankings.

Their teammates were 34-year-old Christian Ahlmann, the world No. 7 who was also on the German team bronze squad at the Athens Games, and 33-year-old Marco Kutscher, the world No. 22 who won the Olympic individual and team bronzes four years ago.

The Netherlands will be one of the medal contenders, although their world No. 2 Albert Zoer was not in the arena after breaking his leg in a training accident recently. Gerco Schroder, 30, was on the team gold squad at the Aachen World Equestrian Games and took Holland to the fourth position in team jumping at Athens Games.

He was world No. 11 on the latest FEI jumping rider rankings and his teammates Vincent Voorn and Angelique Hoorn were respectively world No. 95 and world No. 94. The last Olympic jumping team gold for the Netherlands dated back to 1992.

The United States team was the defending champion, with Athens team members McLain Ward and Beezie Madden still on the team this time around. Madden, 45, was world No. 6 and Ward was No. 31. Laura Kraut, a third member, was together with Madden and Ward when they finished 2nd only to the Netherlands in team competitions at Aachen. The other U.S. team member was Will Simpson, ranking 85 on the latest FEI rankings.

Switzerland came with Christina Liebherr, who finished 13th both at Aachen and Athens, and Steve Guerdat, who came 3rd at the World Cup final in 2007. Liebherr was world No. 46 on the latest FEI rankings and 26-year-old Guerdat was No. 17.

Canada, one of the top teams in Pan America, has world No. 3 Eric Lamaze, who finished 27th in the individual competitions at Aachen, and 61-year-old Ian Millar, the world No. 25 who has taken part in several Olympics, including Athens and Sydney.

Brazil is also considered one of the squads with medal chances. Rodrigo Pessoa, 36, and Alvaro Miranda Neto, 35, were on the team bronze squads at both the 1996 Atlanta Games and the 2000 Sydney Games. Brazil finished 10th at the team competitions in Athens but Pessoa clinched the jumping individual gold there.

China and China's Hong Kong, both debuting at the equestrian Olympics, were also fielding teams in the jumping discipline, although their medal chances were dim. Zhang Bin was the only mainland show jumper on the latest FEI rankings, while Hong Kong obviously looked better with more than one show jumpers on the list.


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