Rio de Janeiro—Aug. 12
The sounds of “Deutschlandlied” rang across the National Equestrian Center in Rio de Janeiro for the second time this week as the heavily favored German dressage team climbed to the top of the podium to claim their eighth Olympic gold medal.
They took the top step on the podium (81.93) ahead of the reigning Olympic champions, Team Great Britain (78.59), with the United States (76.66) claiming a hard-fought bronze.
Six-time Olympic gold medalist Isabell Werth (Weihegold OLD) anchored the team, which also included Dorothee Schneider (Showtime FRH), Kristina Bröring-Sprehe (Desperados FRH) and 21-year-old phenom Sönke Rothenberger (Cosmo). Werth, Schneider and Bröring-Sprehe each broke the 80 percent barrier in today’s Grand Prix Special, adding to the commanding lead they earned in yesterday’s Grand Prix.
The team was comprised of mostly up-and-coming mounts, with Desperados as the only truly seasoned Grand Prix horse, having helped the team earn silver in London four years ago.
“To be honest, we were hoping and a little bit expecting that we would have a goal of the gold medal, because I can’t remember when a German team went to the Olympic Games with four horses that could score over 80 percent,” said Werth, 47. “I was hoping that if there was going to be one younger horse a little bit tense or have a little problem that the other three are so strong that we could deal with the situation. But all four horses were really good.”
Werth earned the highest score of the day with Weihegold OLD, an 11-year-old Oldenburg mare (Don Schufro—Weihevoll, Sandro Hit), finishing on a mark of 83.71 percent to earn her sixth team gold. But Schneider and Bröring-Sprehe sit third and fourth respectively after lovely tests.
“I’m really proud of Weihegold today,” said Werth. “She did a near-perfect test. That’s a point that makes me more proud and happy to be on top, more than any statistic. It’s great to have a gold medal, of course, that’s why we came here: to win.”
The biggest surprise of the day came when British superpair Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro suffered a few uncharacteristic mistakes, still marking 83.02 percent, good enough for overall second.
A military helicopter flew overhead during her test, audible to the audience and those watching the live stream, but Dujardin didn’t notice.
“I was really happy with my test, apart from the two mistakes,” said the 31-year-old. “It’s the first time I’ve ridden that test this year—I haven’t ridden it since the [European Championships] last year. We just had two small misunderstandings, where we [broke into canter at the first trot-pass] and just coming into the twos, that’s the line for the ones in the Grand Prix. He thought he was being helpful, not naughty.”
Carl Hester, who also serves as a personal coach to the riders on the team, improved on yesterday’s mark with Nip Tuck to finish on a 76.48. While the gelding spooked badly yesterday, today he just had a mistake coming out of a pirouette.
“There was no way he was going to spook at anything—I have never used my legs like I did in that test!” he said. “I simply said, ‘You’re going, and you’re going to get that score you can do and help out.’ And he did—I loved riding him today. It’s a shame about that pirouette, I was probably on my personal best score right up to there and again, and he slightly leaned back and changed. But he was right back to good. He was very genuine I felt.”
Fiona Bigwood (Orthilia) and Spencer Wilton (Super Nova II) finished 16th and 21st respectively.
The horses will enjoy two rest days, and 18 riders will continue on to Aug. 15’s freestyle to determine individual medals. A maximum of three riders on each team may compete, so Cosmo and Super Nova II will stay in the barn.
“I’m taking [Dujardin] tomorrow to Christ the Redeemer to pray for Monday,” quipped Hester.
Mollie Bailey and Lindsay Berreth are on the ground in Rio de Janeiro for the Chronicle and will be reporting with all the news, fantastic photos and behind-the-scenes details, all posted on www.coth.com. Your go-to page for all things Olympic is http://www.chronofhorse.com/2016-Olympics.
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