Rio 2016 - GP day two
last updated on August 11, 2016 21:39
Day two of the Olympic Equestrian Dressage dawned sunny today as blue skies and a fresh breeze bathed the Olympic Equestrian Centre in Rio.
With the scores of the first two team riders already on the board, and Spencer Wilton and Fiona Bigwood still smiling after doing Great Britain proud yesterday. It was the turn of the master of dressage, Carl Hester, and his protégé Charlotte Dujardin to cement Great Britain’s position within this, the first stage of the team competition.
First horse down the centre-line today at 10.00 local time was Canada’s Belinda Trussell with Anton, blazing the trail for the first group of riders. This early section of the competition included Spain’s Severo Jurado Lopez and his emerging star, Lorenzo and Irish rider Judy Reynolds with long-time ride Vancover K who scored 76.429% and 74.700% respectively.
Soon after the break it was the turn of Carl Hester and Jane de la Mare’s magnificent but sensitive Nip Tuck. Into the stadium they rode, the huge 12-year-old son of Don Ruto looking to his rider for confidence in the Olympic atmosphere. Nip Tuck looked a little on-edge as he noticed the TV cameras but was soon into his stride, earning a couple of eights for their straight, confident entry and halt, the gelding glancing a cheeky look at the crowd.
Off to a good start – their half passes powerfully agile though the extended trot a little conservative, the pair was producing some expressive work in passage when Nip Tuck took fright at something, shooting sideways before the extended walk. A collective intake of breath could be heard as the crowd reacted, but Carl, ever the pro, settled ‘Barney’ in a split second as they went into extended walk. Gaining confidence with every move, they nailed the canter work with clean, expressive tempi-changes and agile, rhythmic pirouettes, their final centre line of passage and piaffe full of quality and rewarded with a splash of eights.
Carl and Barney’s high-class performance was awarded 75.529% giving a solid boost to the British team.
Speaking to the BBC’s Lee McKenzie, Carl described his performance: “It [the spook] just caught him out right at the beginning there. It was something ridiculous like a flower moving in the pot!” he smiled. “He saw it out of the corner of his eye and then caught the board and it put him off guard a bit. However I appreciate he's like that and I’m often ready for it but he caught me out a fraction.
“He had a lovely way of going today. Once I got into canter he got the points he’s capable of. Today was just three percent off his best score but the mark today is understandable as I didn’t have the best ride. He’ll settle down more tomorrow and it still leaves us in strong position as a team. It’s frustrating but not too disappointing!
“Canter really is his forte; I could do with all the canter at the beginning to settle him so thanks to the person who wrote it [the test] and put the canter at the end! His canter work was error free today and many of the movements are double marks; the pirouette and the zig zag, and he did those really nicely.”
“I’ll be back out here early tomorrow morning to get him in the arena again. We have ten-minute slots in the arena to ourselves or with a few others so I’ll be up at five o’clock again tomorrow to do the same!”
After the third team riders had all competed, the Germans were ahead of nearest rivals and team medal contenders, the USA, Great Britain and the Netherlands, by a nerve-wracking 5%. With current world number one Kristina Broring-Sprehe demonstrating hers and the Holsteiner gelding Desperados FRH’s form, by stepping further over the 80% barrier, a nervy six minutes was in store for British viewers. Enter Charlotte Dujardin and wonder-horse Valegro.
With a huge amount of pressure on her shoulders to score highly for the team and to put their stamp on the competition as reigning Olympic champions, Charlotte made a confident start despite the audience at home mostly holding their breath! A perfectly square halt and salute, pronounced ‘almost copybook’ by BBC commentator and List one judge Peter Storr, to begin and a smooth move-off confirmed a relaxed Valegro, as his usual punchy self.
The first extended trot looked a little reserved with an ever-enthusiastic Blueberry, as he’s known to his friends, showing off his expressive paces. ‘This horse is so wanting to go it’s sometimes about how much of the handbrake does she dare let off!’ laughed Storr as Valegro, part-owned by teammate Carl Hester along with Roly Luard and Anne Barrott, was collected back for the corner. After willing textbook half passes, they didn’t move a muscle in the halt and stepping confidently in the even rein back steps, the combination was allowed to relax further and enjoy the movements as they came. The judges seemed to be enjoying themselves too, as they scored nines and even those treasured tens for regular, rhythmic piaffe and passage steps. ‘Just could have stayed there a little bit longer (in the piaffe) but they’re nice and regular in the rhythm’ said Peter.
As the tropical birds cawed overhead in a cool and breezy Brazilian stadium, the transitions remained smooth and difficult to fault. Into the canter and across the diagonal, nine clean and correct flying changes perfect enough to give you goosebumps and breathe a sigh of relief, as the combination showed their best work rewarded with a scattering of tens. The flawless partnership excelled in their favourite pace with similarly precise one-time changes and an outstanding extended canter. Nerve-wracking moments as the pair came down the centre line for their party piece canter pirouettes, could they keep up such a faultless standard – who would ever doubt them?!
Willing them on down the final centre line they withheld their momentum in the passage, though perhaps lacking a little energy, to come to a halt on the centre line. A beaming Charlotte gave the 14-year-old gelding a huge, well-deserved pat, letting her reins out to wave to an adoring crowd as the charming Valegro calmly walked out of the arena like he’d just been for a leisurely hack down the road, never mind just nailing a Grand Prix test at the Olympics!
The scoreboard confirmed it, a massive 85.071%, they’d done exactly what they needed to, jumping straight into the lead individually and propelling Team GB into Silver medal position behind the strong German contingent.
Charlotte said afterwards: “I think for me going in there today was about going in and enjoying it - that was the biggest thing. I watched a lot of people yesterday going in there looking nervous and I thought, for me, I’ve got to go in there and it’s my absolute passion. I’ve got the horse of my life, I’ve got a top trainer and huge support team around me, I’ve got amazing arenas and I’ve got to go out there and enjoy it. I came out with a huge smile on my face. To be honest I had a huge smile on my face before I went in - I can’t help but smile when I ride Valegro.
“Now we’ve all been in the arena once, I think now tomorrow will be better. Fiona did a fantastic job yesterday, Spencer did a really good job at his first Olympic Games and Carl did a great job. He’s not only had to ride himself but he’s been training Spencer, Fiona and me - he’s been the rock for everyone. I honestly don’t know how he’s done it, but he’s done it for the whole team and I know for a fact that we wouldn’t be where we are today without him.
“London was my first Olympics. It was my dream to get there and I literally had the time of my life. I thought I’m here and I’ve got to enjoy it. At the end of the day, what I do out there is the same as what I do every day at a show, I’ve still got to go out there and deliver. Coming here I want to do the same. I don’t want to come away with any regrets, I want to go in there and enjoy it and have the time of my life and not think ‘I wish I’d done that’ and so far I've done everything I want to do.”
Increasingly windy conditions into the evening set the scene for the remaining fourth team-riders. Laura Graves of the USA impressed with smart Dutch warmblood Verdades to score 78.071% cementing their team’s Bronze medal position ahead of the Netherlands. Their final rider, Hans Peter Minderhoud had an unsettled test with the KWPN stallion Johnson though still scored highly with 76.957%. Final rider of this preliminary team stage, German team stalwart, Isabell Werth and the 11-year-old mare Weihegold Old, produced another confident test for 80.643%. In Gold medal position with an outstanding average score of 81.295% the German team just inch further ahead of Great Britain who end day two on 79.252%, with the USA not too far behind on 76.971%.
So it’s all to play for as these top teams head into the not-to-be-missed Grand Prix Special, which should prove to be a thrilling conclusion of team competition which will unravel tomorrow with everyone chasing those hotly-tipped, though not unbeatable, Germans. Though one thing is confirmed – Charlotte and Valegro are here to win and remain untouchable on the world stage.
Team scores after Grand Prix
Gold - GER 81.295%
Silver - GBR 79.252%
Bronze - USA 76.971%
Gold - Charlotte Dujardin & Valegro - 85.071%
Silver - Kristina Broring-Sprehe & Desperados FRH - 82.257%
Bronze - Dorothee Schneider & Showtime FRH - 80.986
8th - Fiona Bigwood & Orthilia - 77.157%
15th - Carl Hester & NIp Tuck - 75.529%
25th - Spencer Wilton & Super Nova II - 72.686%
Full results - click here - times for Friday's Grand Prix Special will appear on this page after the draw.