FOR those vying to secure a podium place across the myriad venues of east London, the support and encouragement from family members watching from the stands can provide an invaluable boost.
It is only the relatives of Zara Phillips, however, who can draw the eye of spectators and television viewers away from the athletes at the Olympic Games.
An animated contingent of the Royal Family made for a distracting sideshow at London 2012’s flagship equestrian venue yesterday, after turning out to watch Zara Phillips help to win a silver medal for Team GB.
The eyes of the crowd and the cameras of the international media often drifted from proceedings at Greenwich Park to focus on the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the main cheerleaders for the Queen’s granddaughter.
The couple put on a patriotic front, with gold and red Team GB badges on their lapels, and the duke pumped his arm into the air and smiled broadly after Ms Phillips and her team delivered an accomplished display in the team eventing competition, with the 31-year-old overcoming an early mistake to make a promising Olympic debut.
The reason for their joy was clear after Ms Phillips, the wife of former England rugby captain Mike Tindall, went one
better than her mother, the Princess Royal, and became the first member of the family to take home an Olympic medal.
Princess Anne, also looking on proudly, could be seen clutching a Team GB bag, with two Olympic pins on her blazer. She was joined in the 23,000-capacity crowd by the Duchess of Cornwall, Princess Eugenie, Princess Beatrice, and Ms Phillips’s brother, Peter.
The expectant atmosphere saw the crowd fall silent when Ms Phillips began making her way around the course, which featured some quinessentially British jumps, including a miniature Nelson’s Column and bright red postboxes.
There were gasps as her mount, appropriately named High Kingdom, knocked over the second fence, but despite incurring three time penalties, her display was enough to make medal winners of her team, which also included William Fox-Pitt, Mary King, Tina Cook and Nicola Wilson. Germany took home the gold medal.
The crowd erupted once she had finished, waving Union flags, a factor the British team said had been a great help in securing the place on the podium.
Fittingly, Ms Phillips was presented with her medal by her mother, an experience she described as “amazing”. After the presentation, she kissed Princess Anne on both cheeks. As Chariots Of Fire played in the background, Ms Phillips was seen mouthing, “Oh man, oh man.”
Asked if the competition had been an emotional experience for her, she joked: “It’s like an emotional rollercoaster.” She expressed thanks for her family’s loyalty: “It’s nice that they’ve managed to come and watch.”