Sunday, Apr. 14, 2024

Van Grunsven Falters

Newsbreak….  Anky van Grunsven and Keltec Salinero weren’t perfect. And they’re not winning.
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Newsbreak….  Anky van Grunsven and Keltec Salinero weren’t perfect. And they’re not winning.

Now, just a few horses after van Grunsven rode, Denmark’s Andreas Helgstrand has stolen the lead from Germany’s Heike Kemmer.  He and the powerful gray mare Blue Hors Matine scored a 76.333 percent to the delight of the Danish fans, to take over the lead.  It’s been an interesting day in Aachen for WEG dressage.

Van Grunsven, the reigning Olympic individual gold medalist, had a Grand Prix test with major mistakes.  And the phenomenal scores she got for her usual brilliant movements weren’t enough to balance those mistakes out, and she and Salinero are now in second, with a disappointing 75.000 percent.  She’s sandwiched in the standings between two Germans—Heike Kemmer and Nadine Capellmann.

Van Grunsven and Salinero are known for collecting record-high scores, usually completing their Grand Prix test with scores close to 80 percent.  And today’s test looked to be on that path, with their extended trots, trot half-passes, and initial passage-piaffe tour picking up multiple 9s, mostly 8s, and some 7s.  But the walk—usually not Salinero’s best movement since he’s not known for his relaxation—brought their percentage down with scores of 6s and 7s.  “His walk has improved a lot, but the American judge [Linda Zang at H] gave it a 6,” said van Grunsven’s husband and trainer Sjef Janssen.  “Even in the collected walk, the American judge marked us lower.  We were kind of astonished by that.”

In the next passage-piaffe tour, Salinero hopped out of the piaffe, earning 6s and 7s for the movement.  And then disaster struck.  Returning to the long side of the ring, Salinero picked up the wrong lead of the canter.  The crowd gasped loudly, and van Grunsven quickly fixed the error with a flying change.  But the scoreboard showed four 4s, and a 5.  She recovered quickly, and earned 7s for her canter half-passes, and straight 8s for her extended canter.

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“We didn’t expect those mistakes,” said Janssen.  “Salinero was very relaxed, and we think almost too relaxed, because that can casue problems.  They both lost a little bit of concentration.”

But in the two-tempi changes, the unthinkable happened again, and van Grunsven was a stride late with the last flying change, receiving 5s and 6s.  Her one-tempis were fine, scoring 7s and 8s.  For the rest of the test, van Grunsven rode precisely and made no more mistakes.  Their final extended trot and piaffe again put 9s on the board.  But their final halt—Salinero is known to not stand immobile at the halt—earned only 4s, 5s, and one 6.  “That was not her mistake–the crowd started to applaud before she saluted,” Janssen said. 

Van Grunsven gamely flashed her trademark wide smile and waved, but there was an atmosphere of raised eyebrows in the stadium.  The Dutch fans still roared their approval, stamping the floor and cheering loudly, but van Grunsven’s face was grim as she left the arena.  “Of course we’re disappointed.  They usually score 77 or 78 percent in the Grand Prix.  But those were big mistakes,” said Janssen.  “Salinero was very tense all cround the showgrounds, and in the warm-up.  But he really calmed down when he went into the ring.  He knows that ring, and was very quiet and happy. In the beginning, everything was good.  But then they had the mistakes.”

And the race for the gold medal just got tighter than anyone could have imagined.  After three riders for each nation have gone, Germany leads with 217.833 points to the Netherlands’ 215.042 points. 


You can find live results scoring here…

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