Thursday, August 18, 2011

Historic first Championship Gold medal for British Dressage

18 August, 2011

Spectacular rides from each of the British quartet sealed an historic victory for Team GBR at the FEI European Dressage Championships 2011, Rotterdam, 18 August 2011.  Each rider gave their all to secure the first gold medal ever won in dressage on the World stage and in doing so, fulfilled the hopes of a dressage nation that has risen to meteoric success in three short years. Their final team score of 238.678 set a new European record and sealed an emphatic win over Germany and the Netherlands.

Gloucestershire-based Charlotte Dujardin first ignited British hopes, setting alight day one of the competition with the 9 year old Valegro, who is co-owned by her mentor Carl Hester and Roly Luard.  Riding only their sixth International Grand Prix test together the pair produced a sparkling test to score a PB of 78.30% that was also good enough for fourth. Alongside Emile Faurie’s trailblazing score of 70.426% that he banked with Joanne Vaughan’s Elmegardens Marquis, the Brits had laid down the gauntlet for the competition.

Excitement rose as Carl Hester produced a breathtakingly beautiful test with the 10 year old Uthopia, causing the crowd to gasp and murmur, as he put the horse he co-owns with Sasha Stewart through its paces. Their score of 82.568%, another personal best, confirmed it, catapulting the team into the lead and leaving Carl top of the scoreboard.  “This is a dream” he commented “and even more fantastic because we’ve had the horse since he was a 4 year old; he’s a family pet who’s turned into a superstar.”

Even without Laura’s score, Germany would have needed 85.165% to knock Team GBR off the gold medal position after expensive mistakes from each of their first three riders. In the cauldron of pressure of the Kralingse Bos arena Alexander Matthias Rath and Totilas made uncharacteristic errors in the onetime changes and final passage for 79.453% to seal the win for Britain.

Meanwhile, Laura Bechtolsheimer rode superbly to guide a hot Mistral Horjis home for 77.280%, to finish in fifth place, and help Britain break the European record for a team test. “He was very flighty in there and too bothered by the noise which pushed him over the edge. I felt like a small blonde girl on a big ginger horse, rather than the harmonious picture we usually go for!” she joked. “Still I don’t think I can be too upset, this is still fairly indescribable.”

Charlotte summed up saying: “We came here all hoping to win gold, so it’s kind of crazy that we have!”

The British victory left the Dutch and Germans to fight it out for silver. After a heroic performance from Adelinde Cornelissen and Parzival (NED) the Netherlands finished in third place with a total of 222.645, behind the Germans on 226.110.

All British riders will compete the Grand Prix Special on Saturday, after Emile finished in eighteenth place.

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