CharlotteDujardinsaw many nervous, ashen faces as she watched her competitors perform their Grand Prix testsyesterday,on the first day of Dressage at the Rio Olympic Games. So the defending Olympic champion promised herself that when shetrotteddown centerline today, August 11, to ride her test aboard the inimitableValegro, she would throw all her passion for the sport behind it, andsimplyenjoy the ride.
That’s exactly what she did, putting in a fluid, harmonious test to score 85.07 percent,taking a commanding Individual lead that also boosted Great Britain tothe overnight Individual Silver positionin the Team standings.
“I’ve got the horse of my lifetime, I’ve got the top trainer, I’ve got everything around me,” Charlotte described. “I can honestly say I came out of there with a huge smile on my face. I was smiling even before I went in there. I can’t help but smile when I rideValegro.”
The pair scored a barrage of 8s and 9s throughout their test, with 10s in the collected canter.Valegro, a 14-year-old Dutchwarmbloodgelding by Negro, performed each movement with a combination of relaxation and accuracy that was unmatched. They are the clear favorites to repeat their Individual Olympic Gold featon Monday, during the Olympic Individual Final.
Earlier in the day, Great Britain’s Carl Hester and Nip Tuck scored 75.52% to sit in 15thplace, individually.
It’s Germany and not Great Britain that are the favoritesto take OlympicTeam Gold, with the second half of the German team performing to standard on Day 2 of the Dressage competition. Longines FEI Ranked World Number One Dressage rider KristinaBroring-Spreheand Desperados FRH, who led the pack after the morning session on a score of 82.25 percent, finished in secondbehind Charlotte, and Germany’s anchor riderIsabellWerthwas last to go in the Grand Prix and scored 81.02 percent withWeihegoldOld to place third.Yesterday’s leader from Germany,DorotheeSchneider,now sits in fourthplace.
The United States bettered their Team standingfrom fourth placeon Day One of Dressageto move into Team Bronze position on the strength ofthe rides fromLaura GravesandVerdades, whomadetheirOlympic debutat Rio today, and team veteran Steffen Peters withLegolas92.
Laura slotted into individual fifthplace with the best score for the USA, a 78.07 percent.Verdadeshas settled well into theDeodoroEquestrian Complex venue in Rio, somuch so that Laurawas slightly concerned about the spooky gelding being too relaxed.In morning training sessions he was focused and unconcerned while exercising in the main arena, and when Laura got on to warm-up for her test, he wasstill relaxed and easygoing.
But, “then the winds popped up, and the plastic bag around the speaker started going, and he just burst into action!” she said.
Top Team Spirit
The pair had a light misstep in the canter, and a small break in the onetempis, but,“I’m super happy with the feeling and the way the training is reflecting in the test,” Laura added.She is enjoying the Rio Games experience, and walked in last week’s Opening Ceremonies. The atmosphere among the dressage team is strong, and with every rider playing their part to move Team USA into a podium position, their collective enthusiasm is growing.
“I can’t say enough good things about our team.‘Team’has a lot of different meanings, and for us as equestrians in particular, the Olympics is very special,” Laura said. “We have the team of our horses and ourselves, and then we have our trainers, and our friends and family, and then we have each other. But here we also get to be Team USA, and it’s definitely something that we’ll remember for a lifetime.”
Olympic veteran Steffen Peters began his fourth consecutive OlympicGameswith asatisfying test aboardLegolas92.His trot extensions were strong, andthepiaffe/passage was high and in place for all 15 steps. Peters felt that there was not a single place where he gave a point away. For him, it was a day that he’d dreamed of.
“The Olympic Games to me, are 90% about the Team medal, and the other 10%, maybe even less, about the Individual medal, so I am just so happy that I could deliver for my team, and so excited theLegolasdid one of the best tests of his life,” Steffen said.
The USA is followed closely by The Netherlands in team standings, which leaves little room for error going into Friday’s Grand Prix Special, which will determine Team medals.The Grand Prix Special begins at 10:00 a.m., and will see 31 pairs—the top six teams and the top seven individuals—return. After a two-day break, Individual Grand Prix Freestyle will see the top 18 pairs compete for Individual medals, at 10:00 a.m. local time, Monday, August 15.