Tokyo 2020: youth and experience triumph
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Day one of the long awaited Tokyo 2020 Olympic dressage event produced an outstanding start to the competition for Team GB.
Making her Olympic debut, 25 year old Charlotte Fry produced an exceptional first test in the Bajikoen arena. The Den Hout based young star has risen through the British dressage ranks from Pony, Junior and Young Rider European Championship teams, to her breakthrough year in the senior ranks in 2018 which came after a European title at U25s Grand Prix. Supported by long term employers Van Olst Horses, Charlotte has enjoyed the season of her life amidst the pandemic disruptions and difficulties producing three horses to International Grand Prix level, with the 12 year old black stallion Everdale her selected ride for the Games.
Drawn in Group A, Charlotte and Everdale entered the immaculately dressed arena under the setting Japanese sun and created magic inside the white boards. Showcasing powerful extensions, a polished piaffe-passage tour and lateral work with plenty of crossing and ground cover, 'Lottie' and Everdale were rewarded a new International personal best score of 77.096%. Despite a strong challenge by Sweden's Therese Nilshagen (Dante Weltino OLD), the young duo claimed the top spot in group A securing their ticket to Wednesday's Freestyle to Music final and individual medal competition.
Speaking to the media after her test, Lottie said, "I was really really happy with it, couldn't have gone much better today. Everdale was really with me today and was concentrating so hard, at the end he even got a shock that there were people watching because he was concentrating so much. I was really happy with my ride." Reflecting on her test, the Yorkshire-born Brit continued, "He [Everdale] definitely knew it was a big occasion, he knew it was coming and he's so intelligent. He was so focused on me, it was such a great feeling. He was very calm in the extended walk, the extended trot and canter were highlights, I was happy with a lot today. I trust him and he really trusts me now, I know he'll try his best whatever happens". The pair have progressed from Young Rider tests together, with Lottie producing the breeding stallion from a seven year old through to Olympic Grand Prix. "I enjoyed every second, it's a shame there are empty stands but there's so much atmosphere in there," Lottie concluded speaking about her first experience at the greatest sporting event of them all.
From youth to the oldest member of Team GB taking part in Tokyo 2020, six time Olympian and British Dressage patron Carl Hester started his campaign in the final group of the evening session, Group C. With his own, Charlotte Dujardin, Sandra Biddlecombe and Lady Anne Evans En Vogue, Carl presented the powerful gelding with the poise, skill and intelligence that fans and followers of the sport only expect after an illustrious career. In his opening test, the duo displayed highlights in the piaffe, one-tempi changes and canter pirouettes, alongside outstanding trot half passes and ground covering trot extensions. A couple of miss-steps just kept the score away from topping their previous International bests, with small mistakes in the two-tempi changes and at the end of an otherwise standout extended canter line. Rewarded by the judges, Carl and En Vogue claimed fourth spot in their group with a final score of 75.12% completing a superb day one for Team GB.
"He's never done this before, this is enormous for him," Carl explained of his latest Olympic debutant after his test. "He's nervous, he's hot and he was very on edge warming up, but you know what he actually was perfect - he walked, he halted. We had two obvious mistakes, the two-tempis and the extended canter but they're small things. My canter is usually the go-to for marks, he never seems to usually make mistakes in there. I didn't think he was going to answer and I touched him too strong - you can see how sensitive he is."
"I think the most exciting thing is he is one of the most talented horses I’ve had" Carl continued, "I can feel he’s better than most of the horses I’ve had, I’ve just haven’t got to the very end. At his age and his experience – two internationals and he’s here. Two internationals and they’re [En Vogue and Gio] appearing at an Olympics. It’s pretty amazing whatever these horses do, to be honest. We have high expectations of course because they’re good horses.”
Germany's Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and the light-footed dancer Dalera BB recorded the highest score on the first day of action with 84.37%. Cathrine Dufour and Bohemian for Denmark earned 81.05%, with the top three high scores in the dressage opener completed by Sabine Schut-Kerry and Sanceo, an impressive combination for Team USA.
Charlotte Dujardin returns to the Olympic stage tomorrow, with her newest international star, her own and Renai Hart's powerhouse Gio. Our final team combination start their journey at 13.06 in the final group to contest the Grand Prix qualifier.
Words by Camille Peters | British Dressage
Photos by British Equestrian | Jon Stroud Media
Photos © British Equestrian | Jon Stroud Media