(HONG KoNG, August 9) -- Australia took a strong lead in the Eventing competition with three riders having completed the Dressage section on the first day of Equestrian competition in Hong Kong. The team from down under leads the team field with 102.80 penalties and three strong scores under 40 to choose from.
Lucinda Fredericks of Australia established her lead in the morning session with 30.40 points and was still at the top of the leaderboard when the evening session concluded. Karin Donckers of Belgium scored two 9s for position on her way to a 31.70-point finish that put her in the second individual spot. Megan Jones of Australia turned in a score of 35.40 in her Olympic debut, giving her the third individual position.
The upset of the competition was the surprise withdrawal of Nicolas Touzaint of France, whose horse was injured in what is suspected to have been an accident in the Shatin stable. The withdrawal of the double European champion and World No. 2 came hot on the heels of that of teammate Jean Teulere on Friday, August 8. It leaves the defending gold medalists with only three riders, hardly enough to have a chance of a team medal.
The US team is in a strong second place after Rebecca Holder's score of 35.70 brought their total to 121.50. Double gold medalist Philip Dutton and Athens 2004 Team bronze medalist Karen O'Connor are still to go on Sunday.
Hinrich Romeike of Germany demonstrated some of the solid riding that earned his team top place at the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Aachen. His result of 37.40 left Germany third. Sweden lie fourth on 140 penalties.
Youngest competitor Alex Hua Tian of China showed maturity by recovering well after his horse shyed at the short end of the arena. He ended on a respectable 50 penalties, ahead of Olympic veteran William Fox-Pitt on 50.50.
Brazilian Saulo Tristao celebrates his 20th birthday on August 15 but will want to forget today's round in which his horse Totsie became spooked and reared in the centre of the arena. The pair finished on 78.50 penalties.
The third and final session of Eventing Dressage takes place August 10.