LONDON – Queen Elizabeth's granddaughter Zara Phillips clinched a dramatic silver medal at London 2012 on Tuesday, while being cheered on by jubilant members of the royal family.
Phillips was part of the Great Britain team that finished behind Germany in the three-day eventing equestrian competition, with Prince William and Harry; William’s wife, Kate; her mother, Princess Anne; and the Queen’s husband, Prince Philip, all looking on from the stands at Greenwich Park.
Having suffered the disappointment of missing out on both the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games when her horse was injured, Phillips could not conceal her delight at experiencing the crowning moment of her career and paid tribute to the familiar faces in the crowd.
[ Photos: British royals at the Olympics ]"It was wonderful to have such great support from the people close to me," Phillips said. "It was nerve-wracking but it is fantastic to win a medal. Everyone deserves it."
Despite being allowed certain privileges as a member of the royal family, Phillips has insisted on living like any other Olympian during the Games.
The 31-year-old has shunned usual bodyguard protection and the luxury home she shares with her husband, England rugby captain Mike Tindall, to stay in the Olympic Village, while rising early each day for workouts with her horse, High Kingdom.
The pair was in perfect synch for much of the competition, and despite High Kingdom knocking down the second fence on the showjumping section and picking up a time penalty, it was good enough to put Great Britain in strong position.
Tina Cook’s near-perfect round secured silver for the team, which also included Phillips, William Fox-Pitt, Nicola Wilson and Mary King. A single extra mistake for Cook would have pushed Great Britain out of the medals altogether but she held her nerve as a tense crowd held its breath.
Three-day eventing comprises of dressage, cross-country and showjumping and heading into the final discipline, the home team looked to be in danger of being shut out of the medals. But despite being unable to match the all-conquering Germans, Britain held firm to give the host nation one of its most memorable days of the Games.
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Phillips’ performance also meant she outshone her father, Captain Mark Phillips, who was coaching the United States team and admitted he was unlikely to speak to his daughter during the competition. Phillips has been a valued member of the squad, thoroughly dispelling any notion that her selection was due to favoritism because of her royal connections.
"Everyone did brilliantly," Cook said. "Every single member of the team contributed to this and we are all thrilled. Zara is a wonderful team member and always gives everything she has got. She has got a lot of talent but works just as hard."
Phillips' career in equestrian threatened to stall following the retirement of her former favorite horse Toytown and after teaming up with High Kingdom, she experienced two barren years as she became accustomed to her new ride.
However, she is now fully at ease with her new partner and is expected to carry on competing and seek a spot at the Rio Games in 2016.
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- Zara Phillips
- Prince Philip
- Captain Mark Phillips