Totilas & Edward World Champions in WEG Gold Medal Sweep, Mistral Hojris & Laura 3rd Silver, Ravel & Steffen Double Bronze
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
LEXINGTON, Kentucky, Oct. 1–Moorlands Totilas was ridden by Edward Gal to a gold medal sweep with a dominating victory in the World Equestrian Games Grand Prix Freestyle under lights Friday night, while Great Britain’s Laura Bechtolsheimer on Mistral Hojris collected her third silver medal and Steffen Peters and Ravel won their second bronze in an unprecedented medal haul for the United States at a world championship.
Before a sellout crowd of 25,000 in the main stadium of the Kentucky Horse Park, Edward and the 10-year-old black stallion scored 91.80 per cent to come with a half a percentage point of their world record.
The scores for Laura and Mistral of 85.350 per cent was a personal best while for Steffen and Ravel the score of 84.90 per cent came close to the top result in their historic sweep of the CDIO at Aachen, Germany, in 2009.
The Friday results seemed popular with the crowd on a chilly night of the third medal competition in the dressage world championships that are part of the WEG and are held once every four years and in the United States for the first time. The crowd, however, booed and jeered what they thought were scores that were too low for Juan Manuel Muñoz Diaz on the captivating gray PRE stallion Fuego Xii who finished fifth on 81.450 per cent.
The freestyle wrapped up the dressage competition, one of eight world championships at this WEG–dressage, driving, endurance, eventing, jumping, reining, vaulting and para-dressage. Endurance and reining finished earlier this week and the eventing will conclude Sunday.
For Edward and Totilas, the reigning European Champions, the pair leave Kentucky and their first time in America with gold for the Dutch team and individual golds in the Grand Prix Special and the freestyle. The sweep was the first for the pair at a major championship.
They won team gold and individual gold for the freestyle at the Europeans, but were beaten by team mate Adelinde Cornelissen and Jerich Parzival In the Grand Prix Special and in their first World Cup Final in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, last March again lost to Adelinde and Parzival in the Grand Prix. At this WEG, Adelinde and Parzival were disqualified after the horse bit his tongue at the start of the Grand Prix team event, drawing blood.
Adelinde was in the stands to watch the freestyle.
The 25-year-old Laura Bechtolsheimer has become Great Britain’s superstar for leading her team to silver at the 2009 European Championships at Windsor, England, and now team silver at this WEG as well as her two individual silver medals, by far the best result at a world championship for Great Britain.
Steffen Peters and the 12-year-old KWPN gelding Ravel have achieved what no other American has in winning a medal in the world championships, and making it two bronzes. He became the first American to win an individual Championship medal in Dressage in the 78 years since Colonel Hiram Tuttle and his horse, Olympic, took bronze at the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1932.
And in a special moment, he dedicated the ride to 2008 Olympic team mate Courtney King-Dye whose battle to recover from a horse injury seven months ago inspired him. In her honor, he wore a safety helmet emblazoned with a U.S. flag in the awards ceremony.
Laura Bechtolsheimer set the bar high when producing great trot extension, lovely passage, and pleasing piaffe with her 15-year-old gelding to begin the final-five showdown with a score of 85.35 per cent.
“My horse has found the freestyle difficult, but thankfully he concentrated enough to stay with me tonight,” she said. “We made little mistakes in the two-time changes and a little in piaffe, but he showed his true colours and just picked it up again afterwards. I’m very proud of my horse.”
The most spectacular performance of the night came from the Spanish partnership of Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz and the stallion Fuego XII.
The crowd had fallen in love with them earlier in the week, so they were already particular favorites, but no-one could have expected them to produce the form they found Friday. Prancing into the ring with his knees almost touching his nose, the gray stallion demanded attention.
The routine set to their Spanish soundtrack brought spontaneous cheers during Fuego’s first extended trot.
There was lots more to come however, including one-handed one-tempi changes, and by the time Diaz steered his horse up the centreline–in passage and once again using only one hand–the crowd was openly cheering.
The showman Diaz couldn’t contain his excitement at the halt, and nearly parted company with his horse who shot forward as the Spaniard whipped off his hat and thumped the air with his fist in delight. The crowd went wild, and voiced their disapproval when this partnership were awarded 81.450 per cent, which the crowd thought was not enough.
Edward was next to go, but delayed Totilas’s entry into the ring to let the noise settle down.
“This arena is impressive, there was no-one at all here when we were practicing yesterday but so many people today–although we all had to deal with it,” he said, referring to the electric atmosphere which prevailed all evening.
Totilas broke in his first passage and then burst into canter during his first extended trot, but soon he was in that mesmerising rhythm, building up his performance and registering big scores. All five judges put him firmly first.
Peters had the unenviable task of following him into the ring but Ravel didn’t let him down.
Quietly and calmly they made their way through their routine with lovely half-pass and extended trot and with a score of 84.850 per cent slotted into bronze medal position behind Laura and Mistral Hojris.
Last to go was Holland’s Imke Schellekens-Bartels could change the medal-order, and although Hunter Douglas Sunrise showed her customary bounce and exuberance it wasn’t enough to squeeze onto the podium.
Edward praised the people behind him including Dutch Chef d’Equipe Sjef Janssen, Nicole Werner and Hans Peter Minderhoud.
“We work as a team, and we’re doing a great job, but a horse like Totilas helps a lot!” he said.
Knowledge of his horse was key to their success.
“You have to be good to a horse and to have fun with him, to respect him,” he said. “We are horse people who know what’s good for a horse and what’s not good, and that’s important.”
Asked if he was relieved after the big build-up to Friday night’s performance he said: “when I came in I knew I could do it but I had to make it happen. At the end I have three gold medals, it’s so fantastic to come here and win all the tests, it’s just sinking in a little bit now.”
Ground Jury President Linda Zang of the U.S. put it into perspective.
“Tonight we were judging three completely different horses,” she said. “Totilas has so much power but is easy and light and Edward does a great job to keep him in frame and to work happily with him. Laura’s horse is big and powerful, the propulsive power is wonderful but she has to keep him balanced–she gives 100 per cent. Steffen’s horse is elastic and soft and has a different kind of harmony.”
Complete results of the freestyle:
||E. Gal||Moorlands Totilas||91.800||445|
||L. Bechtolsheimer||Mistral Hojris||85.350||413|
||I. Schellekens-Bartels||Hunter Douglas Sunrise||82.100||390|
||J. Muñoz Diaz||Fuego XII||81.450||382|
||I. Werth||Warum Nicht FRH||80.000||383|
||A. Holzer||Pop Art||76.550||369|
||B. Parbery||Victory Salute||76.350||363|
||M. Krinke Susmelj||Corinth||75.300||360|
||F. Bigwood||Wie-Atlantico de Ymas||73.400||355|