Like it or not, Zara Phillips carries the royal banner into Olympics
She's 14th in line for the throne, but the only title Zara Phillips is really interested in is "Gold Medal Winner."
Nevertheless, she will never be able to shed herself of her royal roots, and just in case she does, there will be many people reminding her of her status as Queen Elizabeth's granddaughter. Her status as an Olympic equestrian is unquestioned ... she has earned her stripes ... but how she handles the reins isn't what the media is interested in hearing about this week.
That seemed obvious at a press conference, when she tried to unsuccessfully deflect the spotlight from herself to her sport. Good luck with that.
Her cousins, princes William and Harry, will be very much in evidence at her competition, as will Kate. If Phillips actually makes it to the podium, it will be her mother, Princess Anne, who puts the medal around her neck. Anne had a similar, though less intense, experience in 1976 as a member of the British equestrian team. The horsey heritage extends further to Zara's father Mark (right, with Zara this week), who won gold and silver from two Olympics and is coaching the Americans this time around.
Some samples of the Zara exchanges with the media at conference that was attended by British equestrian team:
-- Did she feel extra pressure with family in attendance? "Obviously they're my family, so why should it be weird?"
-- Any advice from your grandma? "If I did do you think I would tell you that?"
While it might be uncomfortable for the British team's spotlight to sit almost exlusively on Zara, her teammates seem to take it in stride. Team leader Will Connell began the presser with an announcement: "I can reveal hot off the press that every grandmother and grandfather and mother and brother are delighted and thrilled that their granddaughter or sibling or sister is competing at the Games."
For Zara, 31, this Games is a long-sought goal. She was a primed to compete at the previous two summer Olympics, but her horse at the time, Toytown, was injured both times.
For the most part, royals take part in Olympic sports that require other moving parts. That is, their skill is in guiding -- either horses or sailboats mostly. This is to be expected. Equestrian and sailing have historically been rich-people sports.
Titled participants in the Games goes back to 1900, when Count Hermann Alexandre de Pourtales won gold and silver in sailing. Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia established the royal equestrian link with a bronze medal in team jumping at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm
More recently, royals have not had much medal luck, at least individually. Princess Nathalie of Denmark was the medal winner with a bronze as a member of the dressage team in 2008.
Spanish royalty, though, has been respectable. King Juan Carlos (left photo) and his wife Queen Sofia both represented their country in sailing in 1960. And their children Infanta Christina and Felipe have continued the tradition, with Felipe reaching sixth place in the Soling class in 1992.
On the not-quite-blueblood front, marks go to Charlene Wittstock, who didn't have the status of Princess of Monaco when she was a member of the South African swim team that finished fifth in the 4x100 medley in 2000. Her husband, Albert, is also a former Olympian, perferring the winter variety and competing in bobsled from 1988 through 2002.