Germany Wins Olympic Team Gold, Britain Silver & USA Bronze In Most Dramatic Finish In Dressage History
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug. 12, 2016–Germany’s most powerful team ever won Olympic dressage gold adding to Isabell Werth’s treasure trove, defending Olympic champion Charlotte Dujardin led Britain to silver while Laura Graves on Verdades produced a stunning performance to assure the United States the bronze and the nation’s first Olympic medal since 2004.
The showdown between Germany, Great Britain, the United States and the Netherlands was so dramatic that the final medals outcome did not become clear until Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro as the last combination in the Grand Prix Special could not quite catch the Germans with three 80 percent pairs as they had in the Grand Prix.
Isabell Werth rode Weihegold OLD to the top score of 83.711 per cent and earned her ninth Olympic medal, six golds and three silvers, that equals the number won by Anky van Grunsven of the Netherlands as the most decorated equestrian Olympians.
The competition moves to individual medals on Monday when the highest scoring 18 riders–excepting the 21-year-old Sönke Rothenberger on the nine-year-old Cosmo who was ranked 10th but only three combinations from one country can compete so he missed out to the trio of women riders.
The Grand Prix Special began after the 60 combinations that started the Grand Prix over two days with a starting lineup whittled down to 31 pairs. Germany had a clear lead, but not enough to feel secure with Valegro fit and ready to help Great Britain repeat the historic performance in London four years ago.
Spencer Wilton on Super Nova II with 73.613 per cent, Fiona Bigwood on Orthilia on 74.342 per cent and and Carl Hester on Nip Tuck, who has split his time between riding and coaching all three of his team mates and posted a score of 76.485 per cent to keep Britain within reach of gold.
Although Isabell in her fifth Olympics, Kristina who had ridden Desperados in London four years ago and Dorothee who also had ridden on the London team had scored so highly it was not enough to secure. Valegro at his best could elevate Britain to the gold.
A second team gold was not to be. Valegro tripped at one stage that dropped the score dramatically and finished behind Isabell and Weihegold, the first time the British duo did not finish first after 19 straight victories over the past two years.
“The Olympics produces a lot of nerves, a different atmosphere and different rides from people,” Carl Hester said. “I feel the whole of the team has ridden beautifully. Everybody coped with the pressure and the fact that these horses have traveled half way round the world and come out and done performances like that is really testament to the team.”
“The last two rounds have been fantastic and it’s a huge privilege to be riding alongside these guys. We have new music for the freestyle, which will hopefully go to plan,” Charlotte said. “I just want to go out there and enjoy myself and give Valegro a good time.”
Carl, not only knows how to ride and coach one of the best dressage teams in the world, but with has a sharp sense of humor and quipped about the mistake that on their day off Saturday he will take Charlotte to visit Christ the Redeemer, the statue that towers over Rio de Janeiro.
The five highest placing pairs all scored above 80 per cent, Isabell on the 11-year-old Oldenburg mare at 83.711 per cent; Charlotte on the 14-year-old KWPN gelding Valegro with 82.983 per cent; Dorothee Schneider on Showtime FRH, a 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding on 82.619 per cent; Kristina Bröring-Sprehe on Desperados FRH, a 15-year-old Hanoverian stallion, on 81.401 per cent, and Laura and Verdades, 14-year-old KWPN gelding, on 80.644 per cent. For the riders of Weihegold, Showtime and Verdades the scores were all personal bests in a Special.
The battle wasn’t confined to Germany and Great Britain.
Allison Brock on Rosevelt was the first rider for the United States and later disclosed that her plan was very clear–“to beat Edward Gal and Voice to put my team on the right track.”
She did just that, scoring 73.824 per cent for 19th place, 0.169 per cent and one spot ahead of Edward whose team had been reduced to three pairs after the withdrawal of Adelinde Cornelissen and the 19-year-old Parzival.
It was also enough to qualify her as one of three Americans in the 18 to move to the Freestyle for individual honors.
Kasey Perry-Glass on Dublet,another of the three women on the American team that are Olympic first-timers but have held their own against the best in the world this year, did not fare so well with a score of 73.235 per cent.
“It wasn’t our best, but you know I have to give it to Dublet as he’s really trying to stay with me,” said Kasey who moved to Wellington, Florida from her California home to train with Debbie McDonald. “We have a couple of kinks to work out, but it’s our first year and we moved up very fast, so I have to give him credit on that for staying patient and really trusting me in the ring.”
“We’ve captured the elusive 80 per cent–it does exist,” Laura said. “I knew the test was going well, but you just always hope that your reflections match up with the judges. I had no idea going into the ring what I needed for a score and to see my teammates so happy and then to achieve my personal best score, and a score I’ve been reaching for, was just icing on our cake today.”
Steffen, in his fourth Olympics and now with his second medal, said: “I’m super happy with Legolas. We delivered for the team, that was my goal and that’s what we did. We had a couple of little fumbles–he lost his balance in the left half-pass which is uncharacteristic of him and we had a little delayed reaction into the first piaffe, but then he did it beautifully.
“The rest of the test was very clean. He did his changes very nicely, but I knew that after the half-pass ‘fumble’ that if we had one more mistake in the flying changes then we’d be below the required average score to stay ahead of the Netherlands. I knew going into the ring exactly what score I had to get and I’m super happy that it worked out–but it was close.”
JURADO LOPEZ Severo Jesus
WILHELMSSON SILFVEN Tinne
VAN SILFHOUT Diederik
MINDERHOUD Hans Peter
BROCK Allison M.
|SUPER NOVA II||73.613|
KRINKE SUSMELJ Marcela
KIRK THINGGAARD Agnete
|JIMMIE CHOO SEQ||71.681|