Release courtesy of British Dressage
It was a tense day two at the Greenwich Arena for the second half of the Grand Prix which saw tears, showers, records broken and one of the tensest competitions ever known. The home team started the day with riders atop the leader board and from the off it was clear that it would be a challenge for them to stay there.
Italy’s Valentina Truppa posted 75.790% with Eremo del Castegno when just the fourth in the arena while the maestro Edward Gal rode a masterful round to earn 75.289% with the inexperienced Undercover just a few horses later to shake up the top ten and give the Dutch team score a huge boost.
After the first break, in cantered Britain’s Richard Davison to a wonderful reception, despite a rain shower, with the Countess of Derby’s Artemis. The Floristan-sired gelding was clearly on his toes but Richard had ample time to settle him round the vast arena. Once in the test, the marks quickly came and Richard used all his expertise to coax every single point possible. 72.812% was their score which left them 18th at the close of play and safely qualified for the Special.
After his test, Richard exclaimed; “Boy that was hard work! I didn’t have one second to think or enjoy any part of that test; I was busy! With the rain shower and the ponchos coming out Artemis suddenly got all jumpy so the last ten minutes of our warm up were not what I wanted; what I’ve been dreaming about for the last four years.
“I was getting a more and more scared horse on my hands. It felt like taking a child for its first day at school; he was scared and I had to take him by the hand and say ‘come on, let’s do this together listen to me and you’ll be absolutely fine.’ He has got that side to him - in the last few months with doing all those indoor shows he’s really grown in confidence.
“Halfway round the test I felt him take his first breath and I thought, that’s where I want him to be – they’re horses and they run away when they’re frightened. Believe me he wanted to run away from Greenwich all the way back to Staffordshire!
"I’m really pleased with him though and the way he grew in confidence as the test went on, nothing can prepare you for being in that arena. I was just glad to get to the final halt.”
Next was Germany’s new sensation, Kristina Sprehe who has had a meteoric rise with the black stallion Desperados. This combination was one of the pre-competition favourites so the crowd was fixed on their performance. The marks were flowing for some beautiful work and it was 79.119% in the end – not quite the magic 80% but a solid second score for Germany and for her individual ambitions. The score was enough to break the Olympic Grand Prix record held by fellow country-woman Ulla Salzgeber.
The best showman on the circuit, Juan Manual Munoz Diaz gave the crowd a treat with his flamboyant performance with the striking white stallion Fuego to score 75.608% which left him tenth at the end of the day.
It was then the turn of Charlotte Dujardin on her Olympic debut with Carl Hester and Roly Luard’s Valegro and the hopes of a nation rested on the inexperienced combination that only started competing at Grand Prix level in January 2011. She entered the arena to the rapturous applause for Juan but it simply lifted the combination’s spirits.
The first show piece movement is an extended trot across the diagonal which is the perfect start for them but a slight loss of contact towards the end started nerves wrangling. Charlotte has ridden Valegro, or Blueberry, for five years and knows exactly how to handle the situation so it was soon put behind them as the continued in tremendous style. The crowd was silent; all realising that they were watching something truly special. High scores for passage and piaffe further boosted the marks towards the end and they finished as the crowd erupted into sheer delight. The wait for the score seemed like an eternity but it was finally confirmed as 83.663% which gave the lead and a new Olympic record.
Charlotte commented; “Blueberry [Valegro] is just unbelievable, to think he’s only 10 and we only started grand prix last year. He knows what he has to do when he gets in there he’s just brilliant and never lets me down. I just enjoyed it from start to finish and when you stop and have that crowd around you, it’s just magic.
“The marks haven’t been that high so I was hoping for an 80; my best before this was 81 so to come to the Olympics and smash that is a little bit crazy. I had such fun. It’s such a buzz I can’t tell you! I’ve been here since Sunday and I’ve just wanted to get in and do my piece. It was so exciting; when you ride in with all those people around you, it’s just amazing. I’m wearing my lucky breeches, the ones I broke the world record in at Hagen so maybe they helped!
“It’s an amazing opportunity to get here and ride a horse like Valegro and I wanted to enjoy it, you work a lifetime to get to something like this and I would have hated to go in there and put too much pressure on myself and then made mistakes. I just wanted to go in there and do what I would normally do at home or at any other show and that’s what we did. I never had any doubts that he would do it.”
A short break gave everyone time to get their composure and reflect on the enormity of what had happened. Then it was on to the final competitor for the USA, the veteran Steffen Peters with Ravel – if anyone could bring us back down to earth it was this combination. A flowing, well presented test scored 77.705% which slotted in between yesterday’s British riders Carl and Laura.
The second last combination of the day was gold medal favourites, Adelinde Cornelissen and Parzival. The needed a good performance to help the Netherlands from a team stand point and of course their own fortunes. The combination has missed some work owing to a slight injury but they actually looked better than ever following the rest. A text book performance kept the high scores coming and the final square halt presented a score of 81.687%. Not enough to overtake Charlotte but it helped the team to overtake Denmark to lie in bronze.
The final rider of the day was the exciting combination of Helen Langehanenberg and Damon Hill from Germany who impressed many recently at Aachen. The calculators were out and it looked like they would need 82% plus to overtake Britain in the team competition and as the horse’s best grand prix score was around the 76% mark, the pressure was on. As the test progressed in silence and the marks piled in, it was looking close but the final score was 81.687%. This left Charlotte in the lead by nearly 2% and Britain in gold, but by just 0.562%.
So, an exciting day ended with the Olympic record broken twice in the space of two hours, three riders break the 80% barrier and Britain on top of both leader boards. The riders and horses now have a three day break in competition while the showjumping gets underway and battle recommences on Tuesday 7 August with the Grand Prix Special where the team medals will be determined and the riders attempt to qualify for the Freestyle for individual honours.
Full results can be found at: http://www.london2012.com/equestrian/event/dressage-individual/index.html