At the end of her test, instead of an ebullient fist pump or celebratory slap of Sanceo’s neck, Sabine Schut-Kery quietly patted her horse, then walked out of the ring wiping her eyes as her teammates cheered and hugged on the sidelines. She didn’t know it yet, but Schut-Kery, anchor rider for the U.S. squad, had just secured her country its first team silver medal in Olympic dressage since 1948.
What she did know was that she’d just had the test of her life, earning an 81.59%—a massive personal best—in the Grand Prix Special here in Tokyo.
“I was filled with joy and pride,” Schut-Kery said. “It’s such a team effort, so to deliver for the whole team, for my teammates, but also for the coaches, the owners, everybody—that’s everything. That was just a big relief and happiness.”
The U.S. team’s score of 7747 placed them behind the German team (8178). Great Britain, which had entered the final rotation in second place, took bronze with 7723.
Steffen Peters, the U.S. team’s most veteran member, said he cried through the end of Shut-Kery’s test.
“Sometimes the reality becomes better than your dreams because we were dreaming of the bronze medal, and I still can’t believe we have the silver medal. I still need to look at this thing a few times,” said Peters, who was the second U.S. rider to go on Suppenkasper. “All three horses couldn’t make one single mistake. All three horses, especially Sabine’s horse Sanceo, had a fantastic test. But we all knew one mistake might put us in bronze or not even in the medals. For me to experience this after five Olympic Games, and witnessing the last three minutes, in sobbing tears, of Sabine’s test, was an incredible moment. That I can still get so emotional at 57 years old shows how badly I still want this and really still enjoy it.”
Peters was thrilled with his ride on Suppenkasper, which scored a 77.76%.
“I’m more than delighted,” he said. “That’s exactly what I wanted for my team. It’s one thing to ride individually, but when you pull a good score for your team. … When I came out, I gave ‘Mopsie’ a big hug and just thanked him from the bottom of my heart. Already out there [in the warm-up ring], I said, ‘Mopsie, do exactly what you’re doing out here.’ I had a really good schooling this morning. I wanted to take that in the arena, and then he did that for me when it really counted. It’s an incredible feeling that an animal fights for you in the arena.”
Adrienne Lyle was tonight’s first rider to go for the U.S. squad on Salvino, and she noted the improvement in this test over Sunday’s Grand Prix.
“I’m super thrilled right now,” she said. “I was really hoping we could pull that score off with the team today. We were a little conservative in the Grand Prix—it wasn’t our greatest display—and so I really wanted to come out here and push a little more, and despite the heat and humidity he was a really good boy. He delivered, no mistakes, which is what you want for the team.
“I [was happy with] just the fact that he was still able to, you know, towards the end, to maintain power and the enthusiasm and lift. It’s a long test, and they have had a lot of traveling and preparations, so the fact that he’s finishing as strong as he started, that made me happy.”
Germany Earns Another Gold
The German dressage team was the heavy favorite to win here at the Olympic Games. But that fact didn’t make the victory any less exciting for the three-member squad of riders who each scored over 80 percent in the Grand Prix Special to earn that gold medal tonight in Tokyo.
The team—Isabell Werth on Bella Rose 2, Jessica von Bredow-Werndl on TSF Dalera and Dorothee Schneider on Showtime FRH— earned Germany’s 14th Olympic team dressage gold medal.
“It’s never boring to win a medal and especially a gold medal,” Werth said. “I’m not bored at all, and we’re really happy, and especially we’re happy that we filled up to meet the expectations. We are really happy and ready for a drink, I would say.”
Werth, who has won six Olympic gold medals in her career, rode Bella Rose 2 to a test she thought should have scored higher.
“I’m so happy and so proud about ‘Bella.’ She was fantastic,” Werth said. “And this [performance] is, I felt, more than 83%, I would say. She was so great; this was one of our best tests. We can only do the best we can do, and show the best we can show, and I’m really happy with Bella.”
Jessica von Bredow-Werndl earned the highest German score tonight with TSF Dalera as the anchor rider.
“I was very lucky I had these two ladies riding before I did,” she said. “They had such a high percentage, the pressure was less for me. It’s the best team I could wish for.”
“She tried her heart out for me, and it didn’t feel difficult,” she added of TSF Dalera. “For her it seems to be easy. She gives me the feeling that anything is possible, and I’m very very grateful for that.”
Carl Hester was the trailblazer for the bronze-winning British team with En Vogue, and Charlotte Dujardin was the anchor aboard Gio. Their team was completed by Charlotte Fry on Everdale.
“Charlotte was like, ‘You don’t have a choice; you have to go for it,’ ” said Hester. “And I was like, ‘OK, OK. I’ll try’. And he is very nervous. I have struggled with his nerves. I just had a great balance tonight, and it’s an old cliche, but I feel he came here as a boy, and he got it there like a man. He’s done everything I’ve asked; he walked, and he halted, all the little things, the details that are so important when you’re doing tests.”
Dujardin, riding immediately after Schut-Kery’s personal-best test, had to score over 80% with Gio to keep Great Britain in silver medal position, but a mistake in the one-tempi changes dropped their score just below that mark.
The format tonight was new for an Olympic Games. All eight teams came back on a clean slate from the Grand Prix, and after the first two groups of eight riders each went through their tests, a one-hour break took place before the final set. Those riders came back in reserve order of their team’s placing. Because each team only had three riders, there was no drop score.
Tomorrow, July 28, the top 18 riders from the Grand Prix—the best two from each group, plus the next six highest scorers—will contest the freestyle for individual medals.
The 18 pairs who qualified for the Grand Prix freestyle are:
- Isabell Werth and Bella Rose II (Germany)
- Dorothee Schneider and Showtime FRH (Germany)
- Charlotte Dujardin and Gio (Great Britain)
- Adrienne Lyle and Salvino (United States)
- Steffen Peters and Suppenkasper (United States)
- Sabine Schut-Kery and Sanceo (United States)
- Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and TSF Dalera (Germany)
- Charlotte Fry and Everdale (Great Britain)
- Nanna Skodborg Merrald and Zack (Denmark)
- Therese Nilshagen and Dante Weltino OLD (Sweden)
- Edward Gal and Total US (the Netherlands)
- Cathrine Dufour and Bohemian (Denmark)
- Carina Cassoe Kruth and Heiline’s Danciera (Denmark)
- Juliette Ramel and Buriel K.H. (Sweden)
- Hans Peter Minderhoud with Dream Boy (the Netherlands)
- Carl Hester with En Vogue (Great Britain)
- Rodrigo Torres with Fogoso (Portugal)
- Beatriz Ferrer-Salat with Elegance (Spain)