USA’s Laura Graves & Verdades 4th in Olympic Individual Competition

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Laura Graves and Verdades in the Olympic Grand Prix Freestyle to decide individual medals. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Laura Graves and Verdades in the Olympic Grand Prix Freestyle to decide individual medals. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug. 15, 2016–Laura Graves on Verdades of the United States bronze medal team earned a personal best Grand Prix Freestyle score of 85.196 per cent to place fourth in the Olympic individual medal competition Monday in the American pair’s most successful competition in just 2 1/2 years of top sport.

Despite almost 100-degree fahrenheit (37 celsius) temperatures and a competition of Grand Prix, Grand Prix Special and Freestyle drawn out over six days, the score was the third personal best for Laura, of Geneva, Florida, at these Olympics. The pair posted 80.644 per cent that was a personal best Grand Prix Special result and 78.071 per cent for a personal high in the Grand Prix.

Finishing fourth behind Charlotte Dujardin on Valegro earning their second Olympic individual gold, Isabell Werth on Weihegold, the most decorated equestrian Olympian in history and Kristina Bröring-Sprehe on Desperados FRH in their second medal-winning Games, Laura was “thrilled with the score.”

The fourth place finish was the same placing as Steffen Peters and Ravel in the musical ride at the Beijing Games in 2008 who rode Legolas in this Olympics and scored 79.393 per cent for 12th while American bronze medal team mate Allison Brock on Rosevelt were awarded 76.160 per cent for 15th place.

The results for Laura in her first Olympics with the 14-year-old gelding that she has raised from a foal place her among the elite, coming two years after she was fifth in the World Games Freestyle in Normandy that highlighted a new chapter in American dressage.

On the seven-judge panel, Thomas Lang of Austria placed Laura and Verdades third while Gary Rockwell of the United States, Peter Holler of Germany and Stephen Clarke of Great Britain had her fourth.

Although Verdades did not appear as energetic as during the Grand Prix and the Special, Laura was “thrilled with the score.”

Laura Graves and Verdades on the final centerline of the Olympic Grand Prix Freestyle that decided individual medals. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage.news.com
Laura Graves and Verdades on the final centerline of the Olympic Grand Prix Freestyle that decided individual medals. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage.news.com

“Because Verdades is really honest,” she said, “the degree of difficulty is something that I can play with and so you have to highlight those moments. We did them twice, showing that it’s not just luck, and the judges obviously rewarded us for it today.”

However, she did not feel like she had quite as much horse as earlier in the Games. The heat and two weeks at the Deodoro equestrian center made it difficult to keep the horses at their peak.

“But he was ready,” she said. “He stayed really honest, and I couldn’t have asked for more.

“I’m just so happy. I believe in a system, following a routine, and finding a trainer you trust and staying with them. I’m so blessed that both Robert [Dover] and my personal trainer, Debbie McDonald, have sacrificed so much of their time this summer to be over in Europe with the team and it really has made a difference.”

Debbie McDonald jumping for joy next to USA team coach Robert Dover after Laura Graves' ride on Verdades in the Olympic Grand Prix Freestyle to decide individual medals. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Debbie McDonald jumping for joy next to USA team coach Robert Dover after Laura Graves’ ride on Verdades in the Olympic Grand Prix Freestyle to decide individual medals. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Steffen Peters of San Diego, California competing in his fourth Olympic Games and Legolas, a 14-year-old Westfalen gelding owned by Four Winds Farm, were the first of 18 combinations into the arena for the dressage finale competition.

“I’m super happy, and it’s super exciting,” Steffen said of the score of 79.393 per cent and a 12th place.

“I added a few extra degrees of difficulty to the test today. The double pirouette before the canter-piaffe transition is a new one, and I hadn’t done the piaffe-pirouette on center line in a while. I knew if I’d be slightly ahead of the music I would do a double pirouette after the extended canter. Since he did all the other piaffes very well, I thought we’d take a risk and see if he turns with the music and especially in the piaffe-pirouette to the left. He was dead-on with the music, and even there I already had a big smile on my face, and today was 99 per cent less pressure than the previous days, so honestly I had a blast in there–I just loved it.

Steffen Peters on Legolas in the Olympic individual competition. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Steffen Peters on Legolas in the Olympic individual competition. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

“I hadn’t been first into the ring for years, so it was my time. I was hoping for a score of around 80 per cent and the judges agreed with me, so I’m super happy. Legolas just had a fantastic three days at the Olympic Games. I wish I could put into words how much winning the bronze medal means to me and also how much it means to me how well Legolas did here.”

Ali Brock of Wellington, Florida and the 14-year-old Hanoverian stallion Rosevelt, owned by Claudine and Fritz Kundrun, the third American into the Freestyle, the maximum allowed, scored 76.160 per cent for 15th place in their first Olympic and first championships.

“I’m really happy with my test and Rosevelt was very good, bless his heart,” said Ali, one of the most popular Americans on both sides of the Atlantic.

Allison Brock on Rosevelt in the Olympic Grand Prix Freestyle. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Allison Brock on Rosevelt in the Olympic Grand Prix Freestyle. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

“I just love that music–I think it really suits him very well,” she said. “It’s a really beautiful compilation of music from a group called Tanghetto. The canter music is from ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith’. It’s the type of music that doesn’t overwhelm the audience and it draws you into the horse. I’m really happy.”