Blinks Finishes Sixth In Olympic Freestyle

Sydney, Sept. 30, 2000---The U.S. Equestrian Team made a strong statement about the quality of American dressage today, as Sue Blinks of Mt. Kisco, N.Y., finished eighth in the individual dressage competition at the Olympics, while Christine Traurig of Carlsbad, Calif., her teammate on the bronze medal squad, wound up 11th.

The top 15 dressage riders from the original field of 47 competed in the musical freestyle, the last of three competitions to determine the individual placings.

The gold medal was awarded to Anky van Grunsven (NED) on Bonfire with a total of 239.18 percent over three phases of competition, beating her longtime rival, defending Olympic champion Isabell Werth (GER) on Gigolo (234.19). Another German, Ulla Salzgeber, took the bronze with Rusty (225.88)..

Blinks rode Flim Flam, a Hanoverian gelding owned by Fritz Kundrun and the Dressage Sponsor Corporation. She earned 74.45 percent in the freestyle. That score, combined with her marks in the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special, gave her an overall score of 214.65 percent.

"I have tears of joy, what a horse," said an emotional Blinks after her ride. "He is tired today, but he really came through. I am really pleased. The hard stuff is done and I was just going in to have a good time."

"This has been a work in progress," Blinks said. "This was the first time IÕve done this (freestyle) in its final form. I was not nervous, IÕve done pretty well with that. For me, that is the biggest part, getting myself mentally in the right place. But I felt coming here this time that I really belonged here."

Riding Etienne, a Westphalian gelding owned by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Haas, Traurig earned 67.57 percent in the freestyle. Added to her previous marks, her combined score was 208.34

"He was tired," Traurig said. "There is only so much you can do in a short time, but overall I was really happy. I have to say I was really proud of him over three days. "

"I would like to come back to another Olympics, but it is a long road," added Traurig. "ItÕs a wonderful challenge. The growth that you undertake as a rider, what you learn along the way, is pretty amazing. ItÕs been a great experience being around all these world-class riders."

Photo by Diana De Rosa