Tokyo 2020: Team GB earn third consecutive team medal

  • Written By: British Dressage/Camille Peters
  • Published: Tue, 27 Jul 2021 15:33

After an intense battle in the Tokyo sand, Team GB earn their third consecutive Olympic equestrian dressage team medal.

Photos © British Equestrian | Jon Stroud Media

With the scoreboard reset to zero and the top eight dressage teams in the world primed and ready to do their best, the team medal competition in Tokyo was one for the history books, as Team GB excelled and one rider earned a record equalling result.

With the three-group draw based on reverse order of merit from the weekend’s Grand Prix qualifier, the first combination into the Bajikoen arena for the British trio was six-time Olympian Carl Hester with the unproven but talented 12 year old En Vogue (Jazz x Contango). After having made a positive start on Saturday, albeit it with a handful of small mistakes, the focus and confidence was clear today as the experienced Carl more than proved his mettle in producing a sublime routine with his young star.

Their test was rewarded a wealth of eights and nines, with highlights consistently throughout an error free test. The judges praised the canter pirouettes for more nines, a valuable haul in a double coefficient movement, as well as the one-tempi changes and both trot half passes. Carl’s riding was also richly rewarded, as four out of  seven judges opted for a nine for the general impression mark: this encompasses harmonious presentation, rider’s position and seat, and discreet and effective aids. The overall mark for the combination was 78.34%, much to the delight of Team GB and the maestro rider who punched the air in rapture at the end of his test. With Germany’s Dorothee Schnieider taking an early lead for Germany with 80.60%, Team GB would take a provisional silver medal position after the first round of world class riders.

Speaking after his test Carl said, "“Charlotte said, “you don’t have a choice, you have to go for it” and I said “Ok, ok I’ll try!”. He is very nervous, I have struggled with his nerves, and him and I finding the right ride together. If I ride him too forward he’s too tense, and if I don’t give enough he makes a lot of mistakes so I just had a great balance tonight. It is an old cliché but I feel he came here as a boy and he’s gone in there like a man tonight and done everything I asked – all the little things, the details are so important when you’re doing tests. It still feels like one of the best horses you could ever sit on. When he’s in gear you’re just in the air on him.  

"We’ve always known he’s so talented, I’ve just been waiting for the right ride so that I could prove he was what we think he is. And that’s not the finished article yet, he’s an 80% horse that one," Carl continued, discussing the great talent that En Vogue presents and how he's dealt with the enormity of an Olympic Games. "That’s just amazing for him, he’s never been anywhere like that, he’s been to Windsor, that’s all he’s been in with a few people around. He’s coping great, and that’s what we didn’t know, if he’d cope. Like Charlotte said, it’s all about trust, if he trusts you I’m not worried about mistakes, there’s not one thing he can’t do really well. I tried to do them all well after the other test, and I knew if I could get a ride out of him, with no mistakes, he’s always heading towards eights and got a load of nines too.” 

The pair will now prepare for their Freestyle test, when asked what he would look to tweak before tomorrow Carl responded, "that’s the worst bit for me, music! Tonight was the test I was focussing on, I’m a team rider, I’m a team player and that’s what I like doing. I’ve got a new programme, it’s quite difficult. You won’t know the music as Tom’s deigned it specifically for him – it’s a disco funk so it’s a good goer. He’s never done music before so I’ve purposely kept away from anything that would have wound him up.”

Charlotte ‘Lottie’ Fry, at only 25 years of age, has performed and impressed beyond her years in Tokyo, showing her own, Anne and Gertjan Van Olst’s 12 year old Everdale to his best, power and elegance encapsulated. Their breakthrough test in the Grand Prix, also providing a ticket to the individual medal final, was followed today by another test full of high quality work. Top marks were delivered for piaffe, canter pirouettes and lateral work; an unfortunate mistake would hold back their score from reaching the same heights as day one, as the energetic Everdale took a canter stride at the start of the first extended trot. Their stellar effort would be enough to hold the silver medal position at the end of the second group, with the experience FEI judges panel rewarding 76.85%.

Team Germany extended their lead to 8% after the close of the second stage, with Isabell Werth’s 83.29% added to an already impressive total. The United States emerged as key players in a close fought game as Steffen Peters and Adrienne Lyle took hold of a provisional third spot moving into the final group.

“I was so happy, a lot of things felt better than yesterday, I couldn’t ask for much more,” Lottie told post-test, "I have a lot of favourite parts, probably the flying changes, every test he does that’s one of my favourites, he’s incredible at them. Today I was really happy with the piaffe, he gives such a great feeling in there.”  Speaking about handling the pressures of the day's team competition she continued, "There was a bit of pressure, especially being on the team with Carl and Charlotte, who have done it many times and are completely amazing. But we have such a supportive team, I really felt like we were at our best so there wasn’t much to be nervous about.”

Showing admirable experience and enthusiasm, Lottie said "I really love competing and this arena is so amazing to ride in, even though there’s no people there’s so much atmosphere still. I love every second of it! It’s so inspirational to watch Carl and Charlotte go in test after test and produce amazing results too, they just keep getting better and better, it’s super inspirational for me”. The Yorkshire-born rider has a lot to look forward to in what will surely be a career that continues to flourish, "We can still get so many more marks so I’m excited for the future as well. I’m pretty speechless. I’ve just had an amazing time so far, I’m so happy with Everdale – he’s really tried his heart out, out there."

With a new Olympic format allocating times late in the session according to the provisional team standings, Charlotte Dujardin was confirmed as the penultimate rider in the final group, who better to take up the challenge than the reigning Olympic champion and one of Britain’s greatest female athletes in sporting history.

On board the diminutive powerhouse Gio (Apache x Tango) making his Olympic debut at just ten years of age, Charlotte called upon all her experience to take on the task of securing a third consecutive medal for Team GB in equestrian dressage. A strong start saw nines on the score sheet for their entry, with further nines and eights to follow for sweeping trot half passes and explosive passage.  A green error in an otherwise huge line of one-tempi changes would challenge the score briefly, though the seasoned competitor would recover marks with more late nines for the canter pirouettes, passage, piaffe-passage transitions and final halt. An immense Olympic debut score of 79.54% was awarded to the bright chestnut and Team GB’s talented anchor woman, taking the overall total for Great Britain to 7723.

The in-form Jessica von Bredow-Werndl with Dalera BB delivered another superb performance to successfully defend team Germany’s Olympic team title, the gold medal winning team total was 8178. Having already delivered the ride of her life, American Sabine Schut-Kery propelled the United States into silver medal position ahead of Charlotte’s ride, with Great Britain securing the bronze.

Hot out of the saddle, Charlotte spoke in the mixed zone: “I obviously came in after Adrienne, looked up and saw she had 81 so I was like “right, Pumpkin we’ve got to go some!”, I was really pleased with him to be honest, that’s the second time he’s done the special, he’s so inexperienced. He had a little bit of a mistake in the ones, and I think I just over rode – I gave him a  touch before the piaffe in the walk and had a little joggy moment before there, but apart from that I’m absolutely thrilled with him. He’s just tried so hard the last few days and he’s only 10 years old and what little competition he has done, what he’s delivered here I can’t ask for anymore. For me – it might be a bronze, but it’s really like a gold medal because I feel like he’s given me absolutely everything.

“It’s just been a fantastic last few days, for the team and in the Grand Prix we all did really, really well, two of us got personal bests," Charlotte continued praising the efforts of her talented team, both human and equine. "Tonight to actually get a medal, we knew it was going to be tough, because both of our horses, Carl and mine, have barely done any shows. This year has been so hard – everything got cancelled, we’ve hardly taken them away to Europe to compete, it was really a bit of the unknown coming here – but they’ve both delivered and I can’t ask for much more." The experience has been positive with the team atmosphere lifting the spirits despite the empty grandstands, "It's been fantastic, us three as riders, as a team, we’ve had so much fun, with Lottie and this being her first Olympics at 25 – she’s just got nerves of steel, she just goes down her centre line and delivers those tests. She’s unbelievable and I feel very proud for her and she’s done what she’s done to help us get this bronze. We all admire Carl, we watch him ride and he’s the rock of the team and supports us all and keeps us going, for us we’re so lucky to have the team we’ve got.” 

This medal, our sixth in Olympic history, is not only the third consecutive team medal but also lauds individual accolade as leading lady Charlotte Dujardin becomes the most decorated British female Olympian in history. Only the great Dame Katherine Grainger holds the same achievement, with one gold medal and four silver from her success in women's rowing. 

"I didn’t even know that until a minute ago! I was like “Oh my god!" A shocked Dujardin celebrated her latest record with the press, "It’s unbelievable, I keep saying “I’ve got a medal, I’ve got a medal! Because it was really the unknown if we were going to medal, the Germans were strong, the Americans were strong, the Danish were strong – there’s so many teams that could medal it was really close as to who was going to get it and it was quite exciting at the end. We were just so lucky to come away with this and I feel so honoured and so proud to be representing the country and come away with another medal."

Our three team riders will take to the Tokyo stage once again tomorrow morning, as the best 18 riders in the world go head to head for the three prestigious podium places. 

Words by Camille Peters | British Dressage

Photos by British Equestrian | Jon Stroud Media