August 3, 2012--British fans got what they wanted today, a deserving heroine who they could reward with a standing ovation and lots of flag-waving.
Charlotte Dujardin came to the rescue of her team, turning in an inspirational Olympic record performance with the powerful Valegro, earning 83.663 to put Great Britain in the lead for the team medal with a total of 79.407 percent. Germany is very close behind on 78.845, with its strongest rider, Helen Langehanenberg, scoring 81.140 on Damon Hill.
The Dutch are third with 76.809, courtesy of world number one, Adelinde Cornelissen and Parzival (81.687). Edward Gal, Totilas' former rider, looks as if he has cemented a good relationship with another black horse, his new mount, Undercover (75.395). And would you believe Anky van Grunsven, the perennial gold medalist, had the lowest score for the team, 73.343 with Salinero? Times have changed. Think back to the classic Anky/Isabell Werth Olympic battles. At one point, it seemed as if those two pillars of the dressage world, one Dutch, one German, would be fighting it out forever. Now Isabell isn't even riding here and Anky is playing her 18-year-old mount's swan song.
Charlotte, Adelinde and Helen were the only three to score over 80 percent. I can remember the days when you were good if you scored more than 70 percent.
And what of the U.S.? It's fifth on 72.801, behind Denmark (73.845), and unlikely to march into medal territory on Tuesday, when the awards are handed out after the Grand Prix Special. Even Steffen Peters, the high score for the U.S. with Ravel (sixth on 77.705) conceded that the Dutch likely have the bronze locked up.
"The Dutch team looks quite good," he said, but taking the positive view, he noted that at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, the U.S. had had two riders below 70 percent. Here it has two above 70, plus his 77.
Steffen did a superb job with his test, but like all perfectionists, he felt there were things he could improve.
"I wish I had a bit more in front of me in the first two piaffes; it wasn't as good as it can be. The rest felt absolutely phenomenal," he said.
"I think even the extensions were a bit better, the zig-zag half pass is probably the best he's done, so I'm thrilled. I really went for it in the canter extension to a point where he did a bit more than I asked him for, he blasted out of that corner, so I got a bit nervous when I brought him back, but he collected beautifully, did his (flying) change and then two super pirouettes.
Riders aren't getting time to go all the way around the dressage arena in the 30 seconds before the start bell is rung after they enter the big ring, so Steffen practiced working with that short time during ring familiarization a few days ago.
"I kept warming up to the very last minute, then went straight for the cameras (which are along the ring) and knew we had 30 seconds until the bell rings and then another 45 to get in."
Steffen was all smiles, saying he is "super excited." He added, "I hope we can step it just a tiny bit up in the Grand Prix Special, which is usually his better test.
Steffen wasn't the only U.S. rider to compete today. Tina Konyot, first to go this morning, stands 27th with a score of 70.456 percent on Calecto V. She had a fumble in the one-tempis, but basically was pleased with her first Olympic experience and with her black stallion.
"He felt very, very good to me, my horse. I had little bobbles that of course in this moment, it cost and I'm not in the upper echelon of the European show circuit, so I think that affects (the score); I haven't been seen in the European shows for quite some time. I think he gave a very strong performance. I was hoping for more points than that, I know he has that in him, we both do. I will look at my video and see why that didn't happen."