By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
LONDON, Aug. 7–Great Britain won the Olympic dressage team gold Tuesday, their first ever medal in a century of Olympic dressage, while Germany took silver and the Netherlands bronze in the Grand Prix Special that was the second phase of the Nations Cup.
Charlotte Dujardin on the 10-year-old KWPN gelding Valegro led the British squad with a score of 83.286 percent. the highest in the Special as was her score in the Grand Prix first phase, while her coach and mentor Carl Hester and the stallion Uthopia were awarded 80.571 per cent and team mate Laura Bechtolsheimer and Mistral Hojris 77.794 per cent.
Aside from Charlotte and Valegro and Carl and Uthopia, who came first and third individually, respectively, only Adelinde Cornelissen and Parzival of the Netherlands broke the 80 per cent barrier, scoring 81.968 per cent for the second spot.
The silver medal broke Germany’s string of gold victories that began at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984.
For Britain, it was their second equestrian team gold medal and the 20th so far for the nation in these Olympics that is the highest total since 1908. They won team gold in jumping Monday. Last week, they won team silver in eventing.
And it sent the sellout crowd of 23,000 into a frenzy of flag-waving and jubilation in historic Greenwich Park that dates its royal heritage back 600 years and has a panoramic view of London.
The final team rankings were:
1. Great Britain 79.979%
2. Germany 78.216%
3. Netherlands 77.124%
4. Denmark 73.846%
5. Sweden 72.706%
6. United States 72.435%
7. Spain 72.287%
Teams that did not qualify for the Grand Prix Special
8. Poland 68.536%
9. Australia 68.521%
10. Canada Eliminated
The German team of Dorothee Schneider and Diva Royal, Kristina Sprehe and Desperados and Helen Langehanenberg and Damon Hill with all new to the Olympics and came into the Games clear underdogs to the British.
However, as Helen said, “We are a really great team. We did not lose the gold medal we won the silver medal. We are a young team, new at the Olympics. We have young fresh horses. We have all done our best and done a good job and are really, really happy.”
Carl and Uthopia set the stage for Britain’s triumph as the first of the trio to compete and performed an almost flawless test that was awarded 80.571 per cent and heightened the exitement among the crowd.
The usually totally focused Charlotte admitted to feeling the moment that did not match her world record Grand Prix Special score the pair set in April, but was much more profound as the hopes of a nation rested on the results.
“My legs were like jelly,” she said, “I was more nervous in there. I didn’t ride like I knew I could but he still felt really good. It’s so surreal but it was the ultimate dream to get here and win gold. Valegro’s the horse of a lifetime.”
But Carl Hester said that rather than focus on the fact they are for sale, he would rather thank the owners who “took a risk so we could keep them through the Olympics.” Laura said she will give, Alf, as she calls Mistral Hojris, a rest and let him tell her whether he wants to keep going.
Germany’s Dorothee Schneider faces a similar situation with Diva Royal whom she said grows 10 centimeters when he enters the competition arena as he loves to show.
She burst into tears when she said that Diva Royal, that she has been competing at Grand Prix only since last December, will be ridden by the owner after the Olympics, as intended all along. The pair finished sixth individually.
Anky van Grunsven, who brought her Salinero out of retirement to help the Dutch team at these Games, became the most decorated equestrian rider in Olympic history when her team won bronze–a color she joked she did not have in her collection of four team silver, three individual gold and one silver won in seven Olympics.
Although their score of 74.794 per cent put them in 12th place behind team mates Adelinde Cornelissen and Parzival and Edward Gal and Undercover, she was enthusiastic about the freestyle they quaified for. Many in the crowd thought she was short-changed by the judges.
The trio of British riders dealt head-on with the label of “elitism” frequently stamped on dressage.
“All three people are from different backgrounds, Carl Hester said, “and we have all made it to this level. Charlotte has come through the pony world that is open to all children, I came from Sark in the Channel Islands, the most ridiculous small island in the world, and I left home at 16 to do horses, and Laura was a Pony Club kid.”
“Any kid could aspire to do what we have done. My parents aren’t even horsey, they can’t stand horses.
“The obvious answer is hard work and dedication has paid off for all three of us who came here by very different routes.”
Charlotte confided that she and Carl, her boss, mentor and coach “are like a married couple’–”he shouts at me, I shout at him. I owe everything to him, for training me, for giving me fantastic horses to ride. He’s very special to me..”
She turned to Carl whom sher has worked with for six years and said, “Thank you.”
Charlotte was one of a handful of riders wearing safety helmets instead of top hats in the competition arena.
She started wearing the so-called “crash hat” when she competed Valegro in Florida last winter and has continued to do so, especially in award ceremonies “when you never know what will happen.”
Carl said that Sark’s onlypost box will be painted gold to honor the island’s gold medal winner
The 18 top contenders meet in Thursday’s Freestyle Final to decide individual Olympic medals.
The judging by the seven-member ground jury did not spark an outcry that occurred at the 2008 Beijing Games that led to the entire International Equestrian Federation Dressage Committee being fired.
By official count, a three-person judges supervisory panel that reviews the scores changed the marks in the Grand Prix on 20 of the 50 horses a total of 59 times.
In the Grand Prix Special which had 32 horses, a total of 12 marks were changed on 12 horses.
Overall, there were 85 changes out of 12,600 marks awarded.
Gary Rockwell of the United States who was on the ground jury for his second Olympics said he welcomed the review of the scores as it worked in favor of the riders.
“It’s a bit of a relief,” he said. “The horse gets the benefit of the doubt and if we were wrong we get corrected, so its for the benefit of the rider.”
Grand Prix Special results
|1||DUJARDIN C||VALEGRO||83.286 Q||+|
|2||CORNELISSEN A||PARZIVAL||81.968 Q||+|
|3||HESTER C||UTHOPIA||80.571 Q||+|
|4||LANGEHANENBERG H||DAMON HILL||78.937 Q||+|
|5||BECHTOLSHEIMER L||MISTRAL HOJRIS||77.794 Q||+|
|6||SCHNEIDER D||DIVA ROYAL||77.571 Q||+|
|=7||PETERS S||RAVEL||76.254 Q||+|
|=7||SPREHE K||DESPERADOS||76.254 Q||+|
|9||ZU SAYN – WITTGEN.||DIGBY||75.730 Q||+|
|10||GAL E||UNDERCOVER||75.556 Q||+|
|11||MUNOZ DIAZ JM||FUEGO||75.476 Q||+|
|12||VAN GRUNSVEN A||SALINERO||74.794 Q||+|
|13||CARVALHO G||RUBI||74.222 Q||+|
|14||KITTEL P||SCANDIC||74.079 Q||+|
|15||VILHELMSON SILFVEN||DON AURIELLO||74.063 Q||+|
|16||KASPRZAK A||DONNPERIGNON||73.794 Q||+|
|17||MAX-THEURER V||AUGUSTIN||73.619 Q||+|
|18||TRUPPA V||EREMO DEL CASTEGNO||73.127 Q||+|
|20||TELDE M||SANTANA||72.270 R||+|
|21||VAN OLST A||CLEARWATER||72.016 R||+|
|22||KANERVA E||SPIRIT||71.889 R||+|
|23||BARBANCON MESTRESM||PAINTED BLACK||71.556 R||+|
|24||HOLZER A||BREAKING DAWN||71.317 R||+|
|25||KONYOT T||CALECTO V||70.651||+|
|29||MARTIN DOCKX J.||GRANDIOSO||69.286||+|
|30||LINDH M||MAS GUAPO||69.016||+|
|32||VAN DER MEER P||UZZO||67.444||+|