It was another good day in the office for Great Britain out at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, as GBR added a further four medals to their already impressive medal haul.
Another day and another medal for Great Britain’s dancing duo. Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro added a second gold to their name - and the third medal of their Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games debut - at today’s Grand Prix Freestyle.
Together they produced spectacular work, especially in the trot, transitions and pirouettes, to earn high marks across the board from the judges. Their massive score of 92.161% lit up the scoreboard, much to the delight of the crowd. Winning today’s Freestyle completes the set, meaning the talented duo can now add the title of World Champions to their already impressive resume, alongside their Olympic and European titles.
After her test a delighted Charlotte commented; “It’s my third time riding that test so it’s still very new, so to do what I’ve done with it is fantastic. He just felt brilliant; I’m very pleased and absolutely over the moon.
“It’s just absolutely incredible. After London I didn’t think it could get much better, but to go to the Europeans and come away with two golds and now to come away with another two golds and a team silver I just couldn’t have asked for any more. I just go out there and have fun, I don’t really think about the pressure. Riding a horse like Valegro gives you so much confidence I just go in there and do my best and that’s all I can do.”
GBR’s Carl Hester and Michael Eilberg also took the arena by storm today, with stand-out performances by both riders and their WEG debutants.
Michael Eilberg with Jon and Julie Deverill’s talented grey mare Half Moon Delphi rode a beautiful test to finish eighth with 79.696% after some impressive displays of passage and piaffe to their Spanish inspired music scored the combination high marks.
Carl rode a lovely test with the ever impressive Nip Tuck, owned by Jane De La Mare, to a personal best with 76.589%, in only his third Freestyle.
The ‘god father’ of dressage put together a heavenly performance today to claim his hat-trick of Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games gold medals in the Grade Ib. It’s a title Lee Pearson has reluctantly accepted this week but with 22 championship gold medals over a 15 year career, it’s an appropriate one.
Britain’s Ricky Balshaw kicked the Grade Ib off with the Lady Joseph Trust’s LJT Enggaards Solitaire and they had a great ride to score 71.6% to a lively music set.
Then it was Lee’s turn. Riding Zion, he proved that he’s back on top with a masterful freestyle display to music including Superman, Mission Impossible, We are the Champions and Fame which he had done for the 2007 World Championships. Lee upped the technicality to match his music choice and wowed the crowds (which included a 25-strong contingent of family and friends all sporting matching ‘Go Lee’ shirts) and the judges to be the first, and only, competitor to break the magic barrier with 80.05% and take the gold. This gave him the hat-trick of golds, the first time he’s done that since the last World Equestrian Games in 2010.
Earlier in the day, Natasha Baker got our day of dancing underway at La Prairie in the Grade II Freestyle with Phil & Lorraine Baker and Christian Landolt’s Cabral. They were hoping to bounce back from yesterday’s defeat but ‘JP’ hadn’t forgotten the dragons at the C end of the arena which completely put him off his stride. From the first halt it was clear that he wasn’t going to settle and Natasha did her best to keep things on track, cleverly managing to weave her compulsory movements in. Some of the walk was great, boosted by a perfect choice of music but the damage had been done. 66.55% was the final mark which left them out of the medals. Gold went to the rising star of Grade II, Rixt van der Horse of the Netherlands who has won many new fans this week with her Gribaldi-sired Uniek.
In the Grade Ia, Sophie Christiansen had a clear mission to the day…complete her hat trick of Paralympic, European and World titles and in doing so retain her triple World Champion status. The day was made even more poignant in that it was the final championship under the watchful eye of trainer and mentor Clive Milkins. With her own Janeiro 6, she elected to ride to her London music which was a popular choice. Italy’s Sara Morganti set the standard with 78.80% and Sophie entered the arena full of purpose. She and ‘Rio’ executed her well known programme with great expertise for a fabulous 77.550% to leave her just short of her mission aim but gave her a great silver medal.
The final class of the day was the Grade IV and Sophie Wells was hungry for revenge with her own Flemmingh sired- Valerius. Her rival Michele George set the level at 78.65% and Sophie, last to go, entered the arena as if she owned it, determined to put on a show for the final day. A technical programme to music she had made for ‘Reece’ if he was called up for London which suited him to tee. Many in the crowd felt that she had done enough but a mark of 78.05% left her agonisingly short for silver.
So Britain’s five para riders end their Caen journey with a total medal tally of eight; four gold and four silver. The main objective was to qualify for Rio which was achieved convincingly and there were mixed emotions in the individual performances and many lessons learnt. We have a triple gold medallist in Lee Pearson and each and every rider performed well.
Day two of the dressage took place at Haras du Pin today, with the final three members of the GBR Eventing squad taking to the arena - as the sun also made an appearance.
First up was Oliver Townend with championship debutant Black Tie II, owned by Karyn Shuter. Putting in a smart test with the beautiful 13 year old gelding, the duo posted 47.2 penalties, to lie in 21st place overnight.
“I’m really pleased with that test,” commented Oliver, “we didn’t quite get the draw we wanted and he was a bit green in there but I’m still really pleased. It’s his first championships and he’s certainly not done himself any harm with that score. It’s all to play for tomorrow; it’s as serious a cross-country test as any course in the world.”
Next up was Tina Cook with Jim Chromiak and her own impressive home bred De Novo News. A little nervy, Tina and Herman put in a solid test for the team to score 50 penalties.
Tina commented; “I am a bit disappointed as I know we can do better. He warmed up well but just got tense with the atmosphere in the arena and went a bit babyish on me which caused a few mistakes which you can’t afford to have at this level. It just wasn’t meant to be today.
“The course is a true championship one with plenty of questions. From walking it, it walks very big and Pierre Michelet has done a good job of creating rider frightener fences, it will be a real test and challenge for everybody. It definitely won’t be a dressage competition. De Novo News is a good horse across country and is very scopey so I am looking forward to the challenge, and for GB to hopefully make up some lost ground.”
Last up for Team GBR, and making his championship debut for Great Britain, was final team member Harry Meade with Charlotte Opperman’s Wild Lone who finished the day in 59th place on a score of 56.3.
Harry said of his test; “I’m reasonably pleased. It’s not the horses strongest phase; we were a little disappointed it wasn’t a little better.
Of the cross county phase Harry said: “There's plenty to jump out there - the technical fences are all designed to be attacked in a forward way which should reward brave horses. The terrain and the going are likely to take their toll so the order could well change quite a bit. Wild Lone has pulled out consistent cross country rounds to date so I think, fingers crossed, he will be well suited to the track.”
10.40 Eventing: Zara Phillips
12.16 Eventing: William Fox-Pitt
12.44 Eventing: Nicola Wilson
13.04 Eventing: Oliver Townend
14.16 Eventing: Tina Cook
15.44 Eventing: Harry Meade
20.00 Individual Reining Final: Josh Collins
A cross-country course map is available to view athttp://www.normandy2014.com/2014-games/the-disciplines/3/eventing