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September 15, 2000

UW-RF Graduate Competing in 2000 Olympics

By Susan Huppert
UW-RF News Bureau

Susan Blinks, 1980 graduate of UW-River Falls, will compete on the 2000 Olympic Equestrian Team in Sydney, Australia, with competition beginning on Saturday.

Blinks and her horse, Flim Flam, surfaced in 2000 as the top American horse and rider combination. She finished first in the U.S. Olympic Trials and was the top American on the European tour. At the 1998 World Equestrian Games in Rome, Italy, Blink finished 12th in the individual dressage competition. In addition, she was named USOC 1998 Female Equestrian Athlete of the Year.

Olympic equestrian competition includes three disciplines, dressage, jumping, and three-day event. Blinks will be competing in dressage. Dressage is much like it was during the Renaissance, often described as horses performing ballet.

Blinks earned her bachelor's degree at UW-RF, with a major in Animal Science. One of her instructors, animal science Professor Larry Kasten, said he's not surprised at Blinks' success because she was a rare student who brought apparent talent and skills to train horses even during her college years. As one of Blinks professors in the UW-RF horse science program, he noticed she had "a tremendous work ethic, the drive and the competitive nature" she needed to gain her present position on the Olympic team.

"She has the 'feel' to be a horse trainer," said Kasten. "We gave her a good basic foundation in horsemanship and the tools to build on."

Following graduation, she worked for Diana Rankin, an Olympic dressage rider, from Eau Claire, Wis. Blinks also graduated from the University of Massachusetts. She continued her education, training under Walter Christenson in Germany and under the instruction of five-time Olympian Robert Dover.

Blinks is a certified American Horse Shows Association dressage judge. She has taught riders, trained horses, and judged competitions.

Blinks selected Flim Flan, a bay Hanoverian gelding, 16.1 hands tall when he was two years old. He is reputed to be one of the best dressage mounts in the world.

The Olympic dressage team competitions are scheduled for Sept. 16-17. Individual dressage events will be Wednesday, Sept. 20. The Grand Prix events will be Sept. 26-30, at the Equestrian Centre, Horsley Park.

The most significant achievements the United States Equestrian Team has earned include team Bronze Medals at the 1976, 1992, and 1996 Olympic Games and at the 1994 World Championship. The USET also won team and individual Gold Medals at the Pam American Games in 1999. Two USET riders, Robert Dover and Carol Lavell, have placed as high as fourth at the Dressage World Cup Finals.

According to the USET, equestrian competition is not just about being the best athlete, but the "optimum union of horse and human, facing challenges that human athletes could not cope with alone."

Previously, winning both team and individual dressage events at the past four Olympic Games, Germany will be looking to continue its record in Sydney.

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