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Saudis clinch bronze in show jumping


London,(Arab News):

In one of the most nail-biting finals in many years, the team show jumping finals yesterday at the 2012 Olympics saw a jump-off for gold and silver medals and unexpectedly — at least for the vast majority of the spectators — the Saudi national team taking a well-deserved bronze.

The Saudi team topped the standings after the first day of Olympic equestrian team show jumping at London’s Greenwich Park in a tightly contested competition of 15 teams. After dropping the weakest score from their total on Sunday’s first round, which the competition rules allow, the Saudi team carried only one fault into yesterday’s final jump-off.

The grandson of King Abdullah, Prince Abdullah bin Miteb, jumped a clear round placing Saudi Arabia into the lead for the last round of the team show jumping final.

Prince Abdullah is the second royal Olympian to have made an appearance in the Greenwich Park arena. Zara Phillips, granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth and daughter of Princess Anne, was part of the British team that won silver in eventing.

Prince Abdullah, interviewed at the end of the first round as to the team’s chances said, “Any medals would be a blessing.

This is the first time we have been to the Olympic finals as a team. The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques has been phoning us every day to follow our results.”

Commentators Michael Tucker and Andy Austin saw the threat from the Saudi team early, near the end of the first of the final four-man rounds when Saudi Arabia was securely in third position after Abdullah Sharbatly on Sultan had ridden.

They noted that it was, “fine buying horses but they (Saudi Equestrian) have ridden them. Congratulations to Saudi Arabia.” After a troubled path to the Olympics including comments about “buying medals” in the popular press, the observations were a welcome note of respect for the now charging Saudi team.

During the balance of the second and final round the Saudis slipped to fourth, but their low fault score saved their chances as, when all the riders had completed their rounds, they emerged in third position with Team GB and the Netherlands in a tie, necessitating a jump-off.

Over a shortened course with all at stake, Team GB narrowly triumphed and won their first Olympic medal for team show-jumping in 60 years.

Commenting on the Saudi’s achievement results, commentator Tucker noted that, “Team Saudi is really here on the world stage, beating teams like Germany and the USA,” adding that this was a wonderful return on investment for King Abdullah.

As the medals were presented to the winning teams Tucker noted that this was a moment that the team had all worked for, but it did not happen without team support. Austin agreed, saying, “They worked together as a team, they have pooled the horses, done the training, they based themselves in Europe, they’ve raised their level and this is a monumental achievement for them. It’s a big step forward and it shows how, with the likes of the French and the Germans and the other older, established nations, things are changing in the world of show-jumping.”

This is the second Olympic bronze won by the Kingdom in show jumping with Khaled Al Eid having won the 2000 Sydney Games individual show jumping bronze.

It marks the first Olympic team medal won by Saudi Arabia and the third medal won in Olympic events. The medals were presented by Prince Nawaf bin Faisal, grandson of the late King Fahad who is the IOC representtive for Saudi Arabia.

With the fine performances by the Saudi team, they are still in the running for more medals on the final day of individual jumping on Thursday.

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