Tokyo 2020: Dujardin secures team qualification
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It's mission accomplished for the opening test in Tokyo 2020 with team qualification secured and three spots confirmed in the individual medal final.
Day two of the Olympic equestrian dressage competition concluding as the heat of the day passed into bright white lights over the Bajikoen sand, with the remaining 30 riders coming forward to represent their nations in the greatest sporting show on earth.
With two thirds of Team GB already having secured impressive marks in front of the seven-strong judges panel, the Sunday spotlight turned solely to double Olympic Champion Charlotte Dujardin, returning for her third consecutive Games. Her partner this time, the small but mighty major Championships debutant Gio (Apache x Tango) owned by Charlotte, Carl Hester, Sandra Biddlecombe and Renai Hart. Beginning their campaign in the final group of the day, Charlotte and Gio brought their A game producing not only a new personal best but a first International Grand Prix score over the 80% barrier. Their Grand Prix test showcased Charlotte's admired style of harmonious riding, with a sweeping half pass zig-zag, powerful two-tempis and piaffe/passage work which earned a plethora of nines. A tremendous score of 80.96% secured not only her ticket into Wednesday's Grand Prix Freestyle to Music final, but also more-than-safe passage for Team GB into the Grand Prix Special test team final in second place behind the experienced trio from Germany, Isabell Werth, Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and Dorothee Schneider. It was Isabell Werth with her graceful chestnut mare Bella Rose to take the top honours in Group F on 82.50%, with Charlotte and Gio taking an assured second spot.
Visiting the mixed zone to speak to the world's media after her test Charlotte said, "I really felt quite emotional on the last centre line because when you have a ride like that – it doesn’t mean if you win or lose, it’s all about for me going in there, and when you have a ride like that you know you’ve had everything and he did that for me tonight.” Charlotte originally sourced Gio at a clinic in the United States, after acquiring the pint-size Apache gelding she's not looked back, "It’s a bit of the unknown, not knowing what to expect in there; in the floodlights in an arena like that. He’s not done that really. Hagen has been the biggest show he’s done and he delivered there and I couldn’t ask any more of him tonight, he went in and tried his absolute heart out. He’s just unbelievable, he gives me everything he’s got, even though he still needs to get stronger and more confident in everything. But he still gives more than he’s capable of giving at the moment. I’m able to help him out here and there and he’s just able to keep giving."
It's inevitable not to reflect on Charlotte's previous results with record-breaking partner Valegro and the Newent based rider offered great insight into the difference in pressure with riding a new partner and rising star: "I feel like that pressure is less, that to me tonight is as good as winning. I came out of there knowing he couldn’t have done any more. For where he is right now in his training g and how little competitions he’s done, he couldn’t have done anymore. So that for me is like a gold medal. It’s not always about winning or losing, it’s about what you get with your horse, and that to me was a really special moment and I’ll remember that forever and a day. Sometimes that’s better than some of the other competitions I may have won in the past. Because that feeling with your horse – that emotion just runs through your body because you feel so proud to have that connection. You don’t get that without having that partnership with your horse.”
The reigning Olympic champion understands the importance of the team and was quick to offer praise to the mammoth effort behind the scenes. "The support we’ve had here is phenomenal, the set up; our stable, our camp is unbelievable. The support crew, the whole team we have behind us -when you go into other nations compared to ours; we’ve got everything, everything you could ever want we have, and if you don’t have something they get it. I feel so proud and lucky to be British and to be able to do what I do and I couldn’t do it without all of this so I have to thank everyone around me.”
Charlotte, Charlotte Fry and Carl Hester will enjoy a day to rest and re-energise tomorrow before they return to do battle together as one on Tuesday in Tokyo. The team medals will be decided in the Grand Prix Special test, with the scores from the Grand Prix wiped from the board as all teams start from a clean slate.
All three riders will line up for the final test of the week, the Grand Prix Freestyle, on Wednesday morning to have a shot at Olympic individual glory.
Words by Camille Peters | British Dressage
Photos by British Equestrian | Jon Stroud Media
Team qualification standings
Germany - 7911.5 Q
United Kingdom - 7508.5 Q
Denmark - 7435 Q
United States - 7389.5 Q
The Netherlands - 7312 Q
Sweden - 6989 Q
Portugal - 6862.5 Q
Spain - 6749.5 Q
Photos © British Equestrian | Jon Stroud Media