Zara Phillips. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
By DANICA KIRKA, Associated Press
LONDON (AP) - Zara Phillips will skip the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics together with her team because competition in her event begins the following day.
The 31-year-old Phillips - granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II - will be treated just like any other Olympian when she competes, and that means she will be staying in the Athletes' Village.
Phillips told reporters at a news conference Tuesday that she was very excited to be part of Britain's eventing team, a difficult discipline that tests dressage, cross-country and show jumping ability.
"It will be great to be part of the Olympics and get the atmosphere and the buzz of being a part of it," she told reporters only strides away from the competition venue at Greenwich park.
"In the past, the equestrian has been based quite far out and this time they have made a big effort to have it as part of the Olympics and really nearby to the village, so it will be great to have the atmosphere and benefit from that," Phillips said.
At the London Games she'll be staying with others on the team - Tina Cook, William Fox-Pitt, Georgina French and Mary King. They are fierce competitors most times but a unit for the games.
Phillips is aware that a lot of attention will be coming her way this summer because of her royal ties, but she seemed at pains not to make much of that. It took several persistent questions before she acknowledged that the queen was "very proud."
Both of Phillips' parents were British Olympians in equestrian events. Her mother, Princess Anne, competed in Montreal. Her father, Mark Phillips, is a two-time Olympian and gold medalist.
When asked if she had spoken with her parents about their experiences in the Olympics, Phillips was almost comical in her brevity after saying they hadn't discussed it: "Mum fell off and Dad is not a big talker." Even so, her delight in being part of the team was clear.
"I'm massively excited and honored to be in the team with these guys, as well as still keeping my fingers crossed, as there are still a few weeks to go and you know what horses are like," she said.
The former world champion and her horse, High Kingdom, had been considered a long shot until recent weeks.
Yet the 14th in line for the British throne defied the odds, clawing her way to a spot onto the team after a strong performance at Bramham in northeast England.
The moment is sweet for Phillips because she had to withdraw from competing in the 2008 Beijing Olympics because her horse, Toytown, was injured.
Will Connell, the performance director for the U.K. equestrian team, tried to put to rest any suggestion that Phillips had been selected because of her royal ties.
"Zara is on the team because she is an outstanding athlete," he said.
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