Charlotte Dujardin & Valegro Win European Championships Individual Gold In Controversial Result

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Charlotte Dujardin on Valegro celebrating individual gold medal at the European Championships Grand Prix Freestyle. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Charlotte Dujardin on Valegro celebrating individual gold medal at the European Championships Grand Prix Freestyle. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

AACHEN, Germany, Aug. 16, 2015–A gold medal for Charlotte Dujardin of Great Britain on Valegro by a tiny fraction over hometown favorite Kristina Bröring-Sprehe on Desperados FRH in the European Championships Grand Prix Freestyle Sunday that triggered loud booing from many in the near sellout crowd of 38,000 fans in the fabled Main Stadium.

The controversy came after Valegro, the last of 13 combinations in the Freestyle, made a mistake in the one-tempis and did so again when Charlotte attempted a second line in an otherwise well-performed ride to a new Freestyle of music from the movie, “Taming Dragons Made Easy.” The overwhelmingly German crowd assumed the mistake-free ride by Kristina and Desperados that earned the Olympic and World Games partnership a personal best result of 88.804 per cent was the certain winner.

After the ride by the double Olympic gold medal pair along with enough other precious metal earned from a string of victories at World Games, European Championships and World Cup Finals the preliminary score of 88.982 per cent later increased to 89.054 per cent–0.25 per cent higher than the German duo–flashed on the giant scoreboards.

Kristina Bröring-Sprehe and Desperados FRH performing their best ever Grand Prix Freestyle to win the European Championship individual silver medal. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Kristina Bröring-Sprehe and Desperados FRH performing their best ever Grand Prix Freestyle to win the European Championship individual silver medal. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

The result sparked resounding boos and jeers from the crowd directed at the judges, not uncommon in this horse-savvy country that four years ago booed the judges at this same show grounds for giving a higher score to Matthias Alexander Rath of Germany on Totilas instead of Steffen Peters of the United States on Ravel that they thought should have won.

During the medal awards ceremony–where the crowd as usual in Germany stays to see the winners rewarded–the official announcement praising the judges brought on another torrent of booing.

While none of the jeering appeared directed at the British pair, Charlotte took it upon herself to defuse the situation by ignoring the announcer’s apology that the giant grass stadium field in which the sand dressage arena was centered was too soggy and slippery for an honor round that would take the horses by the stands.

Charlotte rode Valegro out of the sand arena and made a complete round of the stadium on the grass waving to the thousands of spectators.

The pair were rewarded with a standing ovation.

As controversial as the victory by Charlotte Dujardin on Valegro may have been to the predominantly German crowd, the performance seemed to most experts as worthy of the victory even with mistakes inthe one-tempi changes. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
As controversial as the victory by Charlotte Dujardin on Valegro may have been to the predominantly German crowd, the performance seemed to most experts as worthy of the victory even with mistakes inthe one-tempi changes. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

All but one of the seven judges awarded first place for the technical segment to Charlotte and Valegro while six placed Kristina and Desperados second. For artistic, three placed the British duo first with six scores of at least 90 per cent, while five gave the German couple the nod with all seven marks of at least 90 per cent.

Spain’s Beatriz Ferrer-Salat on the frequently injured Delgado took the bronze in a hugely popular result of 82.714 per cent and the first championship medal for the rider since the World Games in Jerez, Spain in 2002. In five years at Grand Prix, Beatriz has been able to compete Delgado in only 10 international shows because of injuries to the 14-year-old Westfalen gelding.

Beatriz Ferrer-Salat on Delgado on their way to the European Championships Grand Prix Freestyle bronze medal. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Beatriz Ferrer-Salat on Delgado on their way to the European Championships Grand Prix Freestyle bronze medal. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Charlotte said later that apart from the one-tempis she was really happy with Valegro, especially because “it’s been a really long week and it’s tough for them. It’s a great feeling to come home with medals.

“It was only the ones that let the performance down. I tried them once and there was a mistake so had to decide should I try them again. So I did and he just has a ‘thing’ about them now; he’s done it all week. It’s only one movement that’s cost me and I was really happy with the rest of it. He’s older and wiser and knows his job a bit better now; he just goes in there and nothing fazes him.

“Following Krisitina, I could really feel it. You could see and hear how much they were behind her. It’s one of the hardest things being here, the crowd are really rooting for their riders and when I walked in there was a huge atmosphere. There was a laugh from the crowd as I started; there was a lot to deal with at the beginning. I think I handled it quite well and overall I’m thrilled.  Always a pleasure to ride here as it’s such a fantastic venue.

“I knew it would be hard coming here. I experienced how tough it can be last year so I was prepared to compete here against the Germans. I’m not going to moan, I’ve come away with two golds and a silver.”

European Championship Grand Prix Freestyle medal winners Kristina Bröring-Sprehe (silver), Charlotte Dujardin (bronze) and Beatrix Ferrer-Salat (bronze). © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
European Championship Grand Prix Freestyle medal winners Kristina Bröring-Sprehe (silver), Charlotte Dujardin (gold) and Beatrix Ferrer-Salat (bronze). © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Asked about her future plans, she said Valegro would have two to three weeks off and then gradually start to prepare for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro a year from now and, laughing, “I hope that I will get my flying changes sorted out by then.”

The “tough week” Charlotte referred to was the Nations Cup over two days with a day’s break before the Grand Prix Special and then the Freestyle. The Nations Cup was staged under unusually high temperatures while there was intermitted heavy rain during the Special and an almost constant drizzle in low temperatures during the Freestyle.

And there was considerable drama and controversy–the once-upon-a-time superstar Totilas ridden by Matthias Alexander Rath for Germany withdrawn with a chronic injury after the Nations Cup and the elimination of Glock’s Undercover ridden by Edward Gal during the Special for blood on the mouth. On Sunday, there was the withdrawal of Great Britain’s Fiona Bigwood when her Atterupgaards Orthilia developed a skin infection and Denmarks No. 1 rider Anna Kasprzak was unable to ride after ignoring the pain from a kick in the chest by her Donnperignon that broke the breast bone but she competed in the Grand Prix and the Special.

“That was the best freestyle I have ever ridden,” said the 29-year-old Kristina who won team bronze and two individual silver medals at these continental championships.

After her ride, she stood next to team mate Isabell Werth to watch Charlotte’s ride.

“Isabell practically held my hand, because I was so nervous.” She was disappointed briefly because gold had appeared within her grasp, but added, “I am satisfied all round and who knows, perhaps I can do it even better next year.”

Isabell Werth on Don Johnson FRH in the European Championships Grand Prix Freestyle. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Isabell Werth on Don Johnson FRH in the European Championships Grand Prix Freestyle. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

She will continue celebrating–her church wedding with Christian Bröring is scheduled for next weekend (she got married in a civil ceremony before the Europeans but did not want to deal with the pomp of a church ceremony until after the Europeans).

Beatriz Ferrer-Salat with Delgado created what was perhaps the biggest surprise at these European Championships, including for herself.

“We traveled to Aachen with the aim of qualifying the team for Rio, which we succeeded in doing. Then, in the Special I wanted to qualify for the Freestyle. That worked too. But the fact that I am taking a medal home with me, is simply incredible.”

Delgado, she said, “was constantly injured. I missed the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky because he was injured. I couldn’t ride in London because he was injured. I kept having to rest him.”

The veterinarians told her he wouldn’t recover. But with a chiropractician and a masseuse she worked out a rehabilitation program over 18 months and since then has been consistently healthy.

The ride on Don Jonson by Isabell Werth with a score of 82.484 per cent was a shock to Germany’s and the world’s most decorated dressage rider over the past quarter century.

“If anyone had told me that I could almost win a medal here with Don Johnson, I would never have believed it,” said Isabell whose ride earned the pair 82.482 per cent. “To finish fourth, just scraping by the bronze medal was a fantastic result. I am very proud of Johnny. It is a great feeling to have a ‘second weapon’ up my sleeve for Rio in addition to Bella Rose.”

Only 0.303 per cent separated the third through fifth places, with the Netherlands Hans Peter Minderhoud on Glock’s Johnson in fifth.

Hans Peter Minderhoud on Glock's Johnson with a phalanx of photographers close by to capture every movement. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Hans Peter Minderhoud on Glock’s Johnson with a phalanx of photographers close by to capture every movement. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

For the second year in a row at these show grounds, spectators were able to ‘co-judge’ the competitions using an app jointly developed by the organizers and the German software giant, SAP.

Their result differed slightly from the judges: Gold went to Kristina Bröring-Sprehe on Desperados with a score of 86.714 percent, silver went to Charlotte Dujardin on Valegro on a score of 83.015 percent and the the bronze went to Isabell Werth and Don Jonson on 82.183 percent.

Similar sports apps developed by SAP are being used by the New York Yankees baseball organization, the U.S. National Basketball Association and are being developed for equestrian equitation at the Washington International Horse Show.

Frank Kemperman, the show director, reported that 96,000 spectators attended dressage in Aachen’s Main Stadium over four days, an average of 24,000 fans per day. The only previous occasion the MainStadium was used for dressage was at the 2006 World Equestrian Games. The Deutsche Bank stadium that hosts dressage during the annual CHIO holds a maximum of 8,000 spectators.

A tearful  Morgan Barbançon Mestre of Spain riding Painted Black out of Aachen's Main Stadium at the European Championships, the last competition for the 18-year-old stallion. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
A tearful Morgan Barbançon Mestre of Spain riding Painted Black out of Aachen’s Main Stadium at the European Championships, the last competition for the 18-year-old stallion. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

 

Results

European Championships Grand Prix Freestyle

Judges K: Jean-Michel Roudier (FRA) E: Susanne Baarup (DEN) H: Anne Gribbons (USA) C: Katrina Wuest (GER) M: Andrew Ralph Gardner (GBR) B: Eduard de Wolff van Westerrode (NED) F: Annette Fransén-Iacobaeus (SWE)

RANK NR. RIDER

EUR %
HORSE 

1 27
Charlotte Dujardin
 GBR
36000 89.054
Valegro 

2 30
Kristina Bröring-Sprehe
 GER
24000 88.804
Desperados FRH 

3 14
Beatriz Ferrer – Salat
 ESP
18000 82.714
Delgado 

4 33
Isabell Werth
 GER
13000 82.482
Don Johnson FRH 

5 44
Hans Peter Minderhoud
NED
7000 82.411
Glock´s Johnson TN 

6 68
Tinne Vilhelmson Silfvén
SWE
5000 80.643
Don Auriello 

7 32
Jessica von Bredow-Werndl
GER
4000 80.214
Unee BB 

8 29
Carl Hester
GBR
2500 79.571
Nip Tuck 

9 45
Diederik van Silfhout
NED
2100 78.696
Arlando N.O.P. 

10 24
Karen Tebar
FRA
2100 74.964
Don Luis 

11 46
Patrick van der Meer
NED
2100 74.375
Uzzo 

12 13
Morgan Barbançon Mestre
ESP
2100 73.375
Painted Black 

13 55
Gonçalo Carvalho
POR
2100 72.768
Batuta