London 2012 Olympics: GB dressage team make history with first gold
Great Britain’s dressage riders won gold yesterday and landed their first title in Olympic history.
Barely 24 hours after the British showjumping team clinched a first gold medal for 60 years, the dressage trio of Carl Hester, Laura Bechtolsheimer and Charlotte Dujardin also triumphed at Greenwich Park.
Britain had never previously won an Olympic dressage medal, which underlines the magnitude of their achievement.
They went into the Games as team title favourites, given their outstanding run of form during the past 18 months.
And they delivered by the bucket-load in yesterday’s grand prix special – the second part of the team test – as Hester broke Dutch star Anky van Grunsven’s Olympic record on Uthopia, before his training partner Dujardin bettered his score just 90 minutes later.
With Bechtolsheimer delivering a solid performance in between, Britain proved uncatchable, with Germany second and the Netherlands third.
Britain finished on a score of 79.97 per cent – the team scores from both team tests are averaged out to give the final result – while Germany posted 78.21 per cent and the Dutch 77.12 per cent.
It meant that Germany’s run of seven successive Olympic team titles came to an end. Hester said: “Both those girls are cool customers. Charlotte is unbelievable for the amount of time she’s been riding, and the horse is also unbelievable – he’s the best horse in the world. As with every sport that has won a gold medal at this Games, it has just shot our sport into a totally different league.
“This is my fourth Olympics, and it’s actually a very weird feeling for me, because three Olympics I’ve gone with no expectations and it’s actually quite easy to ride like that. To come to an Olympics where we were possibly expected to get a gold medal gave me a frightening feeling, and I quite enjoyed it. I am looking forward to it all being over, to get the individual competition out of the way now, but it’s a truly special minute for everyone in British dressage.”
The remarkable Dujardin, 26, only rode in her first significant grand prix competition in January last year, but she is currently world and Olympic grand prix special record holder – she set the world record in Germany in April – and British freestyle record holder.
“I was a bit more nervous today going in because I just wanted that gold medal,” she said. “I didn’t want to let anyone down, and I like that test, so I knew I could do well in it.
“I had a flip I think in the one tempo change and my left pirouette didn’t feel very good, but apart from that it felt pretty good. It’s surreal because obviously I only started in January last year and I got a gold medal at the Europeans, and it was the ultimate dream to get here and ride here.”
And 27-year-old Bechtolsheimer added: “To come into that arena with that atmosphere for Alf [Mistral Hojris] is a pretty big ask, and there were maybe little mistakes where he wasn’t concentrating.
“Maybe I could have given him better signals, I’m sure I should, but other than that it felt like a great ride. He really gave me the power of a young horse. That makes me feel very emotional, very proud of him.”
All three British riders will now contest the individual freestyle to music final tomorrow.
Yesterday’s gold equalled the best total for British equestrian at one Olympic Games, and there are still two more major gold medal chances with the dressage freestyle and today’s individual showjumping competition that will see British riders in action – Nick Skelton, Ben Maher and Scott Brash.
Meanwhile, gold medallist Peter Charles believes Great Britain’s successful showjumpers have emphatically proved the doubters wrong and put the sport “back on the map” in the country.
The four-strong team of Charles, Skelton, Maher and Peebles’ Brash claimed gold with victory in a dramatic jump-off against the Netherlands.
It was a far cry from the situation in 2009 when Britain only avoided relegation from the top league of the European Nations Cup on a legal technicality. Veteran rider Charles, 52, said: “I know the cards have got to fall your way, but I had a good feeling we could win it. There were a few people that thought we couldn’t, but we proved them wrong.
“We had to try to get our sport back on the map. We all knew that and we were all very conscious of the level of support we have had from our owners, Team GB, the funding – we have had a lot of assistance to get to this point and so there was a lot of responsibility on us to go and do that.
“But we feel we have won it for the whole of showjumping and hopefully we have brought it to a bigger audience and everybody will get something out of it. The longevity will last beyond the Olympics.”
Charles, who competed for Ireland at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics, secured victory when he jumped clear in the final round of the jump-off on his horse Vindicat. It completed a remarkable personal fairytale for Charles, who suffered a serious spinal injury, broken ribs and vertebra after a fall in 2006.
He said: “I think the courses were some of the best we have ever seen in the world. A lot of thought went into it.
“The Germans couldn’t cope, the French couldn’t cope, the Americans – all the favourites, we beat them by a distance. We didn’t just beat them, we absolutely annihilated them, which is fantastic. We have never won by that margin against those teams before. It came down to us and the Dutch and we got the job done.”
Skelton, competing in his sixth Games, has also recovered from serious injury to continue in the sport. The in-form 56-year-old, among the favourites for the individual competition, was advised to retire after breaking his neck in two places following a fall ten years ago.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 5 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west