Lee keeping her fingers crossed

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 August, 2008, 12:00am

The price of sacrificing her American birthright will not stop Jennifer Lee from pulling out of the Games if her horse, Mr Burns, is not '100 per cent' fit, she revealed yesterday.

'The welfare of my horse comes first. I have sacrificed my American passport to represent Hong Kong at the Olympics, but if my horse is not 100 per cent, then I have got a decision to make whether to take part or not,' Lee said.

Speaking from Aachen in Germany, she said she was glad the nightmare of the past week was behind her.

'But we still have a few anxious days to go, I will jump for the first time with Mr Burns on Tuesday. It will be two weeks since he has jumped and I'm a bit concerned about his welfare. The last week hasn't helped at all,' she said, speaking for the first time since the controversial decision to withdraw Mr Burns from the showjumping team.

Last Sunday, Hong Kong equestrian team veterinarian Eduardo Felix diagnosed Mr Burns with laminitis - a painful hoof disease - and withdrew him from quarantine at the team's training base in Belgium.

But subsequent tests proved he did not have the injury, although there was some bruising from a tight shoe.

The shoe had been adjusted and the bruising has cleared, but Lee is still anxious - and will be until Mr Burns makes his first jump since all the brouhaha.

'I will have to wait and see. But whatever decision I take, it won't be unilateral as I will first talk to the Hong Kong Equestrian Federation, the Jockey Club and other parties,' Lee said.

Lee, 42, gave up her American passport and relinquished her US citizenship to acquire a Hong Kong SAR passport - a document necessary to represent the city under International Olympic Committee regulations.

'Whatever happens, I won't have any regrets. Hong Kong is my home and I'm happy to make it official,' said Lee.

She had tried to get an IOC dispensation to take part in the Olympics, but it was turned down. The mother of two had feared giving up her American citizenship could cause her problems in the future when travelling to the US where she has family.

Lee and her horse will arrive in Hong Kong on Friday. It will be the end of a journey that has had many twists and turns - and one which Lee hopes will have a fairy-tale ending.

'I hope I can realise my dream, but it all depends on Mr Burns. At the moment he looks good, his coat is shining and he seems fit. But I will know for sure when he makes his first jump since all this happened.'