Charlotte DuJardin Fends Off Bronchitis to Capture London Olympia World Cup Freestyle
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LONDON, Dec. 18–Charlotte Dujardin ignored her bronchitis to ride Valegro to a clear victory in the Olympia World Cup Grand Prix Freestyle Tuesday night but some small mistakes kept the score below Olympic gold medal results and fell short of their world record performance in the Grand Prix.
Before a packed house at what has become a Christmas tradition in the British capital, the 27-year-old double Olympic gold medalist was awarded 87.975 per cent, below their personal best last July of 90.650 per cent at Hartpury near her Gloucestershire base and well shy of the 92.300 per cent that Edward Gal and Totilas established as the world record at this same show three years ago.
Isabell Werth of Germany, the most decorated Olympic rider, placed second on 80.075 per cent, only the second result above 80 per cent for the partnership. It was enough to edge out Carl Hester who scored 79.900 per cent n the final competition ride on Uthopia, the black stallion that helped Britain win gold at the London summer Games, their first ever Olympic medal in dressage.
The supreme showman described his performance as “a great last ride.”
“I wasn’t emotional coming in,” he said, “I was quite looking forward to it, but when I finished, you kind of get the feeling for what the horses have done for British dressage, so I did feel emotional coming out. It was a stress-free, enjoyable ride.”
Looking back at the partnership with the 11-year-old KWPN stallion, he said “the plan always was that he was to be sold, but I do always like to remember that I was lucky to keep the horse for so long.”
The results of Olympia, the fifth of eight qualifying competitions in the Reem Acra FEI World Cup Western European League, did little to change the top standings as most the top four did not compete in London. Italy’s Valentina Truppa remains atop the rankings with 52 points, with Kristina Sprehe of Germany second on 51 points, Tinne Vilhelmsson-Silfvén of Sweden third on 46 points and Switzerland’s Marcela Krinke Susmelj fourth on 44 points.
The eighth place finish in Olympia by the Netherlands’ Edward Gal on Glock’s Undercover added nine points to give them a total of 42 points and maintained their fifth rank.
But this was Charlotte’s show, even though it was her first 2012/13 qualifier leading to the Final in Gothenburg, Sweden next April.
Although wracked with bronchitis, she and the 10-year-old KWPN gelding (Negro x Maifleur x Gerschwin) who this year became the first British combination to hold the world’s No. 1 ranking, set a world record of score of 84.447 per cent in the Grand Prix Monday night. The judges awarded the pair a whopping margin of almost eight percentage points higher than Isabell and Don Johnson FRH in second place on 76.362 per cent and Edward Gal and his Olympic mount third on 76.128 per cent.
Britain’s lively media from the global BBC to dozens of daily newspapers from gossip mongering tabloids to serious journals whose total circulation numbers on the tens of millions embraced thw achievement with lengthy reports.
In preparation for the Freestyle, she received treatment from a doctor Tuesday morning. While it eased the effects of the bronchitis it also made her feel a “bit woozy.”
Riding to the freestyle prepared for the Olympics that featured strains of Land of Hope and Glory with chimes from Big Ben, there were a few small mistakes in the piaffe and at other points that dashed their chances of adding the world record for the third Grand Prix level. They had set the Grand Prix Special record last April in Hagen, Germany and after Monday’s Grand Prix mark the only record not in their hands was the standard set by Edward and Totilas at this same venue in 2009.
The atmosphere indoors at Olympia was different than the Olympics where, Charlotte noted, “there were 24,000 spectators watching, but they were a long way away. Here tonight it was very different, they were so close you could hear them breathing!”
Just before entering the arena, something spooked Valegro.
“It messed up the whole beginning,” Charlotte said, “but he settled down in canter. The changes and extensions are quite tough for horses when that happens, but I was actually very happy with them as it turned out.”
So were the majority of the five-judge panel as she was awarded three maximum scores of 10 points for the first extended trot along with two more for the one-tempi changes and three further top scores for her one-tempi canterwork.
Although they missed a record, the 5,000 fans packed into the 126-year-old Olympia Grand Hall gave them a standing ovation as they left the arena.
Valegro and Uthopia are both for sale–Carl Hester is a part-owner in both horses and convinced his partners to hold off selling them before the Olympics–Charlotte said she hopes she can keep the ride on Valegro.
Attempts are being made to form an owners’ syndicate aimed at buying Valegro and keeping it in Britain, an effort that Carl described to dressage-news.com as an investment for entertainment because the horse is a gelding.
“We will sit down and see what’s going to happen in January,” Charlotte said. “He may be sold on, but we are hoping to get a share of him and I’m hoping to keep the ride.”
The top rankings in the World Cup West European League:
1. Valentina Truppa ITA – 52
2. Kristin Sprehe GER – 51
3. Tinne Wilhelmsson Silfven SWE – 46
4. Marcela Krinke Susmelj SUI – 44
5. Edward Gal NED – 42
6. Minne Telde SWE – 37
7. Sidsel Johansen DEN – 34
8. Patrik Kittel SWE – 30
8. Anna Kasprzak DEN – 30
10. Pia Fortmuller CAN – 28
11. Helen Langehanenberg GER – 26
12. Marlies van Baalen NED – 24
13. Lyndal Oatley AUS – 23
14. Imke Schellekens-Bartels NED – 22
14. Anabel Balkenhol GER – 22
14. Karin Kosak AUT – 22
17. Stefan Peter AUT – 20
17. Charlotte Dujardin GBR – 20
19. Joachim Thomson DEN – 18
19. Lillann Jebsen NOR – 18
19. Jessica Michel FRA – 18