Competing in your first Olympic Games? Winning a gold medal? Winning another gold medal? Earning a score over 90 percent? For Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl it was check, check, check and check at these Tokyo Olympics.
She crossed the last two items off the list today, July 28, by winning individual gold in the freestyle with TSF Dalera on 91.73%. Von Bredow-Werndl went second in the final group of six riders, and she knew she had some heavy-hitters coming up behind her, including teammate Isabell Werth.
“I was so nervous when Isabell rode because I saw her performance, and it was just amazing,” said the 35-year-old von Bredow-Werndl. “I didn’t see my performance, so I couldn’t say if it’s more or less, and when I heard the results, I just had to cry because it was the moment I realized that it could happen tonight—to become an Olympic champion—and this was very emotional. Then I had to cry.”
German juggernaut Werth, who just earned her seventh Olympic gold last night in the team competition, slotted into second on the 17-year-old Bella Rose 2 with a score of 89.65%. Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin and 10-year-old Gio took third with 88.54%. But despite earning silver instead of another gold, Werth said she wasn’t disappointed.
“[If you] follow the results in the past 30 years, I was not always the No. 1,” she said, “so it’s up and down all the time. I’m really happy today because ‘Bella’ was fantastic, and she felt fantastic. I had the feeling I could show what I wanted to show, and there was nothing you could present better, so then I’m really satisfied. The little crowd started to clap on the last centerline, and that gave me a great feeling because I think they felt the same as me.”
Dujardin used a brand new freestyle for Gio, or “Pumpkin,” who was competing in his first international championship.
“I can say that music was only finished three days ago, and that was the first time I’ve ridden to it,” she said. “Pumpkin has only done one other freestyle in his life, so for him to go there, 10 years old, with as little experience as he has, is truly outstanding. This is just an incredible moment for me to be sat here. I knew I wasn’t going to down without a fight, for sure. I really filled the floorplan to make it as hard as possible because he is a real trier, and I knew he could cope with it.”
Until tonight, Dujardin was the reigning Olympic champion as she took individual gold in the 2016 Rio Olympics with Valegro. But she said she finds an equal thrill in bringing horses up through the levels, and she’s leaving Tokyo with two bronzes to boot since Great Britain also took third in the team competition last night.
“My journey with Valegro was a life-changing experience,” she said. “To find another Valegro is near enough impossible. I feel incredibly proud to have another horse here at an Olympic Games. I bought him at 5 years old and trained him up, and to have him here and to have two medals come away, I think it’s absolutely incredible to be able to achieve that.”
U.S. Riders Return To The Ring
After a thrilling evening yesterday for the U.S. squad when they earned a silver medal, two of the riders returned tonight for the freestyle individual final. (The third U.S. teammate, Adrienne Lyle, had qualified to compete but withdrew her mount before the freestyle.)
Sabine Schut-Kery was again the highest-placed U.S. rider on Sanceo, earning an 84.30% and fifth place for their freestyle. She rode to a freestyle composed by her husband, Kristian Kery.
“I love the first song, with the piaffe/passage,” she said. “It’s from the movie ‘The Last Samurai,’ so it fits perfect. I just love it because I think movie music is meant to bring a certain emotion to you, so I love that style of music, and I think it’s also has some elegant pieces, and I just think it resembles Sanceo. It’s a little dramatic but not too powerful.”
Their test had a few mistakes, including a break to trot in the canter work, but Sabine chalked those up to her lack of familiarity with the floorplan of her freestyle, saying she hadn’t done it since 2018 before this week.
“I could feel, a little bit, the third day because we haven’t done that yet enough, and we’ve had a lot to deal with, long travel, heat, et cetera,” she said. “But again it comes down to, he’s there for me, and I feel like we definitely do have a partnership, and he’s just sensitive but not over-reactive. Simply, he lets me guide him and be the leader. I cannot ask for anything more other than next time I have to come more polished. But again, that’s my feeling, and I have learned the feeling doesn’t always necessarily match what you see from the ground.”
Steffen Peters rode Suppenkasper, or “Mopsie,” to a score of 80.96%, which earned them 10th place.
“It was good,” he said. “Mopsie gave everything yesterday, every ounce of energy and every single ounce of cooperation. Yesterday, he fought for our team, and I wouldn’t say he was tired today, but he wasn’t as brilliant as yesterday. But still a clean test and almost an 81 percent—nothing wrong with that.”
Peters rode to a medley of music he chose, including some older tunes and some more recent pop songs. The first song in his freestyle is “OK” by Robin Schulz and James Blunt, which in the version with lyrics repeats the line: “It’s gonna be OK.”
“Personally, I went through a couple of rough years, and my wife always kept telling me, ‘It’s going to be OK.’ So to honor her, I just picked that music,” he said. “And then I went back to the music I used for Ravel in 2009 when he won the World Cup Final. I figured after 12 years, it’s eligible for recycling. Then, just recently, I picked one of my favorite songs from the ’80s, by Haddaway, and it’s just real fun music—something to dance to and exciting.”
See full results from the Grand Prix freestyle. Televised highlights are scheduled to be broadcast on NBC at 3:45 p.m. EDT today, or the full competition can be viewed on demand via the NBC Olympics livestream.