Charlotte Dujardin & Valegro Win Olympic Individual Gold, Isabell Werth & Weihegold Silver, Kristina Bröring-Sprehe & Desperados Bronze
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug. 15, 2016–Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro won the Olympic individual gold medal setting a new Olympic record and scoring within 0.443 per cent of their world record. Isabell Werth on Weihegold OLD that she has been riding regularly for eight months took the silver that brought her Olympic medal tally to 10, more than any Olympic equestrian while German gold medal team mate Kristina Bröring-Sprehe on Desperados FRH claimed the bronze.
Laura Graves on Verdades of the United States bronze medal team received a personal best Freestyle score of 85.196 per cent for fourth, the same placing as Steffen Peters and Ravel in the musical ride at the Beijing Games in 2008. The score was the third personal best for Laura, of Geneva, Florida, at these Olympics, posting 80.644 per cent that was a personal best Grand Prix Special result and 78.071 per cent in the Grand Prix to also be a personal high.
The Grand Prix Freestyle victory on a score of 93.857 per cent–the world record held by the pair is 94.300 per cent–was described by Charlotte as “emotional” while Carl Hester, part-owner, trainer and team mate, confessed he shed tears for the first time.
Carl and Charlotte now face the possibility of retiring the 14-year-old gelding while he is on top of the sport. The duo hold world records for all three Grand Prix levels and are two-time Olympic individual gold medal winners as well as gold and silver in team competition, world and European champions and won the World Cup both times competing in final of the annual event.
The pair that were riding to music with a distinct Brazilian flavor and composed specially for these Games by Tom Hunt who created their British themed London Games freestyle received two scores of 99 per cent, one of 98 and four of 97 for artistic.
For Carl who rode Nip Tuck, his team silver medal mount, to seventh place on 82.553 per cent said, “I think for her, for sure it must be better than London, consistency is so hard with a horse and to see that horse being at the top for six years with hardly a blip on his record is phenomenal; I can’t think of many horses that have done what he’s done. To watch her, she had absolute preparation heading in there; I felt very emotional when she came out.”
Charlotte and Carl said they will decide soon whether to retire Valegro from competition, possibly with a finale performance at the London Olympia World Cup event at Christmas that would be certain to draw a packed house at home.
Isabell admitted she was sad Valegro might retire because the British combination deserved to win and the sport needed top combinations to keep the level high and create spectator and media interest but she also admired leaving at the pinnacle.
Isabell and Weihegold that scored 89.071 per cent for silver was initially ridden by her assistant Beatrice Buchwald but when both Don Johnson FRH and Bella Rose had not recovered from injuries in time for these Olympics she took over riding the 11-year-old Oldenburg mare.
Kristina and Desperados, 15-year-old Hanoverian stallion, won the bronze with an award of 87.142 per cent from the seven-member ground jury and now is facing questions about retirement of the horse that she won team silver at the London Olympics and team gold at these Games. That will be decided, she said, with German team coach Monica Theodorescu after the horse gets a good long rest and goes back to the breeding shed.
The freestyle was held on the hottest day so far of Olympic equestrian–36 celsius/close to 100 degrees fahrenheit, but while it was hotter than the Europeans especially are not used to no one complained.
Charlotte described the ride on Valegro as “really, really magical.”
In London, she said, there were no expectations and no pressure but “coming in here today I felt for the first time nervous, I felt the pressure and the expectations of trying to retain the gold.
“As soon as we got into arena and had the feeling of riding Valegro, I got a smile on my face, and it was OK.
“It was a magical ride, the connection, the bond with the horse. It felt so effortless and easy. He tried so hard. The final centerline was so emtoional for me. He couldn’t have tried harder.”
Charlotte dismissed criticism that the Grand Prix Special where she was beaten by Isabell and Weihegold that she had not ridden the Special since the European Championships a year ago. She said that Valegro’s record shows he has shown unbelievable consistency over the years.
“He s a horse,” she said, “He’s allowed to make mistakes.
“Today was all about coming out here and having fun.”
To be on the safe side, she said, she said a little prayer Sunday when she visited the statue of Christ the Redeemer that overlooks Rio.
Charlotte said that while the decision about Valegro’s future competition is with Carl and the other owners, she does not expect to do another championship.
“He’s been the horse of a lifetime,” she said.”What this horse has achieved you could have written it down and you would never believe it could happen.
“I owe it to him to finish at the top.”
She also disclosed that she plans to marry her boyfriend of the past nine years, Dean Wyatt Golding, next year, that would end the kidding she gets for having promised they would wed after 2012.
Isabell, too, was asked whether she planned to retire now she is 47 years old but was adamant and the 10 medals she had won were more Olympic awards than any rider in any equestrian discipline: “I don’t want to retire. For the next days and months and a few years I will compete. When I compete I want to be on the top level, otherwise I’ll retire. Now, I have a great situation with several young and very talented horses.
She paid the ultimate compliment to Charlotte and Valegro.
“It’s really a shame on one hand that Valegro may retire, but I respect the decision to stop on the top level. It may be one or two years too early but I have great respect for the decision. It’s always great to stop with the horse at the top level. I’m not happy about this because to have top sport you have to have top combinations. I enjoy to compete against the best. This is what I’m not happy about.”