Caen, France—Aug. 27
Throughout her Grand Prix Special, Charlotte Dujardin could hear the crowd gasping in unison. They gasped when she earned 10s for her extended trot, and the numbers flashed on the leaderboard. They gasped when her score briefly hovered over 90 percent. Then they really gasped when Valegro stopped before his first piaffe for a brief bathroom break, and then again when Dujardin missed her last two tempi.
“I could hear them—no matter if it was good or bad,” said Dujardin. “I was like, ‘OK, just try not to listen and keep going.’ But the whole way around, I could hear them. I wanted to turn around and say, ‘sshhh!’ It’s great to have them behind you though.”
But in the end, the momentary lapses in concentration didn’t cost Dujardin or Valegro, and the favored pair walked away with the gold medal (86.12%) in front of Helen Langehanenberg (84.46%) and Kristina Sprehe (79.76%).
“I knew I had no team members to let down today,” said Dujardin, who won team silver with her fellow Brits yesterday. “I thought I’d put my foot down on the Ferrari and go full throttle.
“He had to go to the toilet at the wrong time,” she added. “It was a shame, but those things happen. Then in the twos, I just got too close to the wall. I’d wanted to do them more in the middle, but then we ended up finishing too close to the end.”
Valegro, a 12-year-old was Dujardin’s partner for team and individual gold at the 2012 London Olympic Games, and he appeared unbeatable for years. But just a few months ago, at the Aachen CDIO***** (Germany), the pair finished sixth in the Grand Prix and second to Totilas and Matthias Rath in the Special. That pair was a last minute withdrawal from the World Games.
“I knew it was going to be quite tough to get gold here, but I had such a good ride yesterday that it really gave me confidence today,” she said.
Helen Langehanenberg’s mount Damon Hill NRW didn’t mind the cheering crowds when he entered shortly after Valegro left the ring.
“He normally loves the audience,” said Langehanenberg, who was part of Germany’s gold medal team along with Sprehe. “We won’t give up [trying to catch Dujardin]. I haven’t reflected on today, but we will look at it and then work on that.”
Sprehe fought hard for her place in the ranking. Her rival for the last medal spot, Adelinde Cornelissen on Parzival, finished on a 79.38 percent; that score includes a 2-point per judge penalty Cornelissen received for entering the arena more than 45 seconds after the official at C had rung the bell.
“I wanted to have a very good performance for the team, and that was my goal,” said Sprehe. “Individual…I don’t know. I looked at Adelinde, and I died.”
Cornelissen is protesting the penalty, but even with the points added back she wouldn’t receive bronze.
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