Rio 2016 Olympic Games - Dressage

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Opening Day: August 10, 2016
by Louise Parkes

Great tests from both Dorothee Schneider and Sonke Rothenberger gave Team Germany a firm hold at the top of both the individual and team leaderboards after the opening day of Olympic Dressage at Deodoro Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro (BRA). The Grand Prix is the first of the two competitions that will decide the team medals, and 29 of the 60 competing horse-and-rider combinations took their turn during the day.

At the outset, 38-year-old Akane Kuroki burst into tears of relief and delight after posting a score of 66.90 with Toots to get the Japanese effort underway. There was deep disappointment for The Netherlands’ Adelinde Cornelissen who had to retire when her great campaigner, the 19-year-old gelding Parzival, was way under par, and the 37-year-old rider felt her faithful gelding was unable to show his best. 

 “It started yesterday morning. I came to the stable and his cheek was completely swollen; it appeared he was bitten by a spider or a mosquito or whatever….he had a fever, so we managed to get that down yesterday, eight or nine hours on liquids and everything was good, his temperature was down again, and this morning also. So I discussed it with the team vet and he said go ahead, give it a try, but then he felt totally empty in the ring, and I didn’t want to push him through this - he didn’t deserve that,” Cornelissen explained. 

Next to go, Rothenberger rocketed right to the top of the scoreboard with some fabulous work the nine-year-old Cosmo. “I’m very happy, he’s the youngest horse in the field and I am one of the youngest riders!” said the 21-year-old. “It’s amazing to be part of this team.  I hoped to take the pressure away from the others with a good score” he said. He has built up a great relationship with his Cosmo and clearly admires this horse. “I first rode dressage in pony classes then I went jumping, but Cosmo got me back into dressage. I thought jumping a 1.60m fence was the only thing that could give me goose-bumps, but Cosmo proved I was wrong about that!” he explained after scoring 77.329. 

Then Fiona Bigwood set British hearts racing with a great test from Orthilia that put her, temporarily, into second spot. It’s a real family outing in Rio for the 46-year-old rider, who has brought her three young children and whose husband, Anders Dahl, is competing for Sweden. Bigwood competes with a patch over her right eye following an injury that seriously damaged her sight two years ago. But she steered her 11-year-old mare to a great mark of 77.157.   

With Cornelissen unable to contribute to the team effort, a good result was required from her Dutch team-mate Edward Gal, and he didn’t disappoint when putting 75.271 on the board.  His horse, Voice, is sensitive so he said “in the first part of the test I was bit careful because he wanted to run away!” But he was still thinking about Cornelissen’s disappointment: “I tried to comfort her, but it was very sad for her” he said. 

Schneider was last to go with Showtime FRH, and from the moment the pair came before the judges, the scores went into overdrive, a handsome 80.986 putting them way out in front. 

 “I have this horse since he was three and at the beginning of this year he turned a corner and he said, ‘I am here!’ The feeling you get with him is amazing outside in the warm-up, and then when you come into the arena he says ‘I want to do this with you’ and he goes in a light way. It’s easy; you don’t have to use pressure, although in the left pirouette there was a little misunderstanding today, but I’m very happy!” said the 47-year-old.

The Grand Prix continues on Thursday, August 11, and is followed by the Grand Prix Special on Friday, August 12, which will decide the team title. The first day’s standings are: Germany’s Schneider and Rothenberger hold the first two places, followed by Bigwood in third, and Gal in fourth. Germany tops the team rankings, with The Netherlands in second and Great Britain in third.

Day 2: August 11, 2016 – Charlotte Steals the Show

By Louise Parkes
The multiple record-breaking British partnership and defending Olympic champions, Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro, produced the top score as the Dressage Grand Prix drew to a close at the Olympic Equestrian Venue in Deodoro. But not even the shining star of the sport could halt the steady march of the Germans who look set to claim their 13th Olympic team title tomorrow afternoon.

 “If there is no drama, which we all know can happen, we will hopefully take home the gold!” said five-time Olympic gold medalist Isabell Werth (47), who helped anchor the German total at 81.295 with a great test from the mare Weihegold. But the British are breathing down those German necks on 79.252, just over two percentage points behind, while Team USA is sitting in bronze medal spot another two points further adrift this evening. 

Only the top six teams from the Grand Prix go through to tomorrow’s Grand Prix Special team medal decider, so Spain, France, Australia, Brazil and Japan have now slipped out of contention, leaving the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark still in the medal race along with the leading pack. 

Germany was already out in front after two riders from each side competed yesterday, and looked set to gain an even bigger advantage after Kristina Broring-Sprehe (29) posted a massive 82.257 with Desperados today.

And when Dujardin’s London team-mate Carl Hester (49) had some tricky moments with Nip Tuck, the British looked vulnerable. The 12-year-old gelding is notoriously spooky, and he lived up to his reputation today.    

 “He is probably the biggest horse here, but he has the heart of a mouse!” said Hester, who is also team coach. “He is good with noise but very visual. It was probably something ridiculous that spooked him, like a flower moving in a pot - maybe he needs glasses!” Hester joked. “He went fantastic all week and we had ten minutes in the arena this morning and he was totally relaxed. He had me completely fooled; I didn’t expect this and I’m gutted!”

Dujardin rode to the rescue on her fabulous 14-year-old gelding, producing one of those spell-binding performances which have ensured his superstar status. “I can’t help but smile when I ride Valegro”, she said. “Today I didn’t even have to ask him to do a thing, he just did it himself! He enjoyed it and it felt easy; he just tries his heart out.” 

The 31-year-old is really enjoying her second Olympic experience. “Some people come to the Olympics under pressure, but they still have to do the same as at any other show so I’m enjoying it and having the time of my life. I’m in the village with the world’s best athletes. ‘Oh there’s Roger Federer, oh there’s Nadal, or Murray’ and I’m star-struck! I’ve been pin-swapping and everything, it’s just great fun!” 

A score of 85.071 left her out in front individually and brought Team GB back up into second place. 


After the second day of Dressage, Team Germany still held first place with 81.295. Great Britain was second with 79.252, and Team USA was in the bronze slot with 76.791.

In the Dressage Individual Grand Prix, Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro topped everyone with an amazing 85.071 score. Kristina Broring-Sprehe and Desperados FRH were in second with a score of 82.257. Dorothee Schneider and Showtime FRH were in third with 80.986, and Isabell Werth was fourth with Weihegold OLD, just tenths of percentage points behind Schneider with 80.643.

For the USA Team, Laura Graves and Verdades posted a respectable 78.071 and Steffen Peters and Legolas 92 scored 77.614. “This was one of the biggest tests of my horse’s life and it’s difficult, but there wasn’t a single point we gave away”, Peters said. “He delivered the test I dreamed of for my team! It’s going to be tight here now for the team placings though.”

Germany’s Rothenberger and Cosmo dropped to 7th with 77.329 and Fiona Bigwood and Orthilia were in 8th, scoring 77.157.

Day 3, August 12, 2016

Team Germany took its 13th Olympic Dressage team gold today at Deodoro Olympic Park. Team Germany stamped their authority all over today’s deciding Grand Prix Special with a team total of 81.936. Great Britain settled for silver with 78.595, while Team USA, posting 76.667, fended off the Netherlands for bronze. It was last-to-go German team member, Isabell Werth (47), posting the highest score of the day - 83.711 - with the fabulous mare Weihegold and pinning Britain’s 2012 double-champions Charlotte Dujardin (31) and Valegro into second place in the individual standings. The stage is set for a fascinating battle for the individual title in Monday’s (August 15, 2016) Freestyle. 

USA team member Steffen Peters said: “There were a couple of little fumbles, but 74.198 was the score we needed before I went in, and I got 74.622. I’ve been waiting for this since 1996!”

Laura Graves, USA commented: “To get that elusive 80 percent and to do it at the Olympic Games! I knew it was going well and you hope that is reflected by the marks from the judges. I had no idea what I needed to do, there was pressure, but it doesn’t achieve anything to let it get to you. He (Verdades) gets pretty wound up in the warm-up, but he is a great performer when he comes into the ring; he really likes it!” Laura Graves and Verdades really nailed it with a personal-best score of 80.644.

Day 4, August 15, 2016

Charlotte Dujardin (GBR) and Valegro swept away the competition to take the gold medal in the Individual Grand Prix Freestyle with a phenomenal score of 93.857! She bested Isabel Werth (GER) and Weihegold OLD, who scored 89.071 for the silver, and Kristina Broring-Sprehe (GER), on Desperados FRH, earned the bronze medal, scoring 87.142. USA’s Laura Graves and Verdades were just out of the medals, scoring 85.196 for 4th place.

Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin (31) and the fabulous 14-year-old gelding, Valegro, were in a class of their own when posting an Olympic Dressage record score of 93.857 in the Grand Prix Freestyle to claim their second successive individual title today. The double-gold medalist at London 2012 is the first British woman to retain an individual Olympic title.

On an afternoon of high emotion in Deodoro Olympic Park, it was two members of Friday’s gold-medal-winning German team who took silver and bronze, the multi-medaled Isabell Werth (47) and Weihegold scoring 89.071 to finish ahead of world no. 1 Kristina Broring-Sprehe (29) and Desperados on a mark of 87.142.

Dujardin could hardly contain her emotions after securing the victory. “He couldn’t have done anymore” she said of the much-loved horse who is known at home as Blueberry, “I was thinking this could be the last time” she added before bursting into tears. The British partnership hold all the world records in their sport, and today’s result was just short of the Freestyle record of 94.30 per cent they set at Olympia Horse Show in London (GBR) in 2014. 

USA’s Laura Graves and Verdades were just out of the medals, scoring 85.196 for 4th place. Steffen Peters and Legolas 92 were in 12th with a score of 79.393. USA’s Allison Brock and Rosevelt scored 76.160 for 15th.

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