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Aussie-Turned American Equestrian Goes for Olympic Gold


Equestrian Phillip Dutton was born in Australia and represented his native land in four World Championships and three Olympics, winning gold at the 1996 Atlanta Games and in 2000 in Sydney. But as VOA's Steve Schy reports, Dutton became an American citizen in 2006 and will represent the United States at the 2008 Olympics.

Phillip Dutton grew up on a family sheep farm in an isolated outback area called Nyngan in New South Wales. He told VOA Sports it was a great way to grow up and that he was around horses from an early age as he did his chores.

"Horses are always a part of my life, we had sheep and cattle and a lot of the time the work with the sheep and cattle involved getting on a horse and using the horses to bring in the sheep or cattle and work with them," said Phillip Dutton. "So as long as I can remember I have had an association with horses. And I sort of learned to ride a bit more of the natural way where if you fell off you had to walk home so you sort of stayed on."

Dutton originally moved to the United States and settled in Pennsylvania in 1991, where he worked looking after horses used for polo and fox-hunting. He started competing in the United States, and based on his results here and in England he was chosen for Australian equestrian teams.

"I've always sort of I guess thought of myself as Australian," he said. "But over the years my association here, all of my competing here, all of my family now, three children and my wife they are all American, my fellow competitors are all American, so it sort of gradually went that I was becoming a bit more American."

Dutton will compete for the United States at the Beijing Games, but he will not do his riding in the Chinese capital. Olympic organizers picked Hong Kong for equestrian events because of an outbreak of equine diseases in mainland China. Dutton competes in what is called three-day eventing, which he likens to a triathlon for horses.

"You have dressage, where the horse has to just do controlled movements in an arena and they judge it on, you know, their relaxation and their harmony with the rider," said Dutton. "Then you have the endurance day or the cross-country day, and that is a couple of miles of galloping at speed over various natural obstacles like water, water jumps, ditches, you know, all different kinds of jumps. It tests the horse's speed and bravery and trust in the rider. And then the third day is the show jumping day and so you have got to have a horse then that gets back there and is not aggressive and is not fast and it is much more controlled."

Phillip Dutton says winning a gold medal for his adopted country would be great, but that so far his gold medal in Sydney is the high point of his career.

"That had to be the greatest sporting moment so far for me," he said. "I mean, to go back and every friend, every family member that I ever knew were there in Sydney like crying their eyes out and cheering. And so to go back there and be able to win a gold medal there and added to that I won a gold medal in Atlanta which was sort of my new country as well. So it has been something that has gone further than I ever dreamed it would."

While he has already surpassed his own expectations, Phillip Dutton says he has no doubt that winning another gold medal - this time for the United States - is a realistic goal at the 2008 Games in China.

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