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Olympic show jumping competition begins
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World No. 1 Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and her veteran brother-in-law Ludger Beerbaum will lead the German charge as the jumping competition started at the Shatin Equestrian Venue Friday night.

Michaels-Beerbaum is competing in her fifth Olympics, while World No. 4 Beerbaum is a multiple medalist competing in his fifth.

Powerful Germans won the Olympic team dressage gold Thursday night, bringing the total number of gold medals they have bagged to three. They have already won two gold medals in the team and individual eventing earlier.

The victory holds special meaning for the German team because their show jumping gold medal in the Athens 2004 Olympic Games was stripped after the International Equestrian Federation announced it had disqualified rider Ludger Beerbaum and horse Goldever for a doping offense and awarded the gold medal to the United States.

European champions Netherlands are without World No. 2 Albert Zoer after he broke his leg in a training accident prior to the Games. But they are still favorites to medal, with Team world champion Gerco Schroder and Monaco as their top combination.

The defending gold medalists from the United States came third at the 2006 World Equestrian games. They have two strong combinations from their Athens 2004 gold medal team, McLain Ward with Sapphire and Beezie Madden on Authentic. Switzerland, another contender for the podium, comes with European Champion Christina Liebherr and Steve Guerdat, who came 3rd at the World Cup final in 2007.

Canada came second to Brazil in the 2007 Pan American games and may be a contender. Key rider Eric Lamaze is currently No. 3 in the world and the team can rely on Olympic veteran Ian Millar, riding in his 9th Games.

Seven Chinese riders from both China's mainland and Hong Kong, China, will also make historic debut in the show jumping competitions.

It is not only the first time for China to host Olympic equestrian events here, but also the first time for China's mainland and Hong Kong to both have their riders in the competitions.

Although China's horse-riding history traced back 5,000 years ago, China's current equestrian population is rather small. The country's other riders, such as Liu Lina, Huang Zuping and Zhao Zhiwen all received long-time overseas training before being qualified for the Olympics.

On the first competition day, the jumping competition is the first qualifying round for the final individual competition, which will also decide the starting order for the qualifying round of the team competition.

(Xinhua News Agency August 15, 2008)

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