Britain wins its first Olympic dressage medal – and it's gold
Tuesday, 07 August 2012
August 7 - Great Britain's dressage riders ended 116 years of Olympic hurt at Greenwich Park today, winning the London 2012 team dressage title along with the country's first-ever Olympic dressage medal.
Taking a narrow lead into the final day of competition, the British trio – Charlotte Dujardin (pictured above, right) riding Valegro, Laura Bechtolsheimer (pictured above, centre) on Mistral Hojris and Carl Hester (pictured above, left) on Uthopia – held on comfortably enough to finish with a total score of a shade under 80 per cent.
Germany, perennial Olympic champions, had to settle for the silver this time with a new young team, while the Netherlands took bronze.
The result continued a highly successful equestrian campaign for the home team, which has also yielded silver in the team three-day eventing and gold in team jumping.
It contributed to another stunning day of success for Britain at London 2012, with the overall tally of gold medals now exceeding that achieved at any Olympics for more than a century.
The extrovert Dujardin, whose rise to the top of the sport has been astonishingly rapid, sealed victory with a characteristically smooth and precise final performance.
She admitted afterwards to being "a bit more nervous today...I didn't want to let anyone down".
Nonetheless, it was she who was the stand-out performer, registering an overall score of 83.286 per cent.
Hester also exceeded the 80 per cent mark in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd, as did Adelinde Cornelissen of the Netherlands, the reigning International Equestrian Federation (FEI) World Cup dressage final champion, much to the delight of the many Dutch supporters.
This is a tight-knit British team whose special chemistry is immediately apparent.
"Charlotte and I compete quite heavily over who does the dumbest blonde things, and Carl patronises," explained Bechtolsheimer.
"I hope this is the beginning of the sport evolving in this country."
Given that dressage is sometimes tagged with an elitist reputation, the background of the British gold medallists is interesting, and hopefully significant.
Bechtolsheimer and Dujardin both came up through pony sports – a reasonably accessible route for youngsters into equestrian competition.
"We never had a ménage at home; we used to school in the fields," said Dujardin, remembering how she used to compete against – and beat – her older sister.
Hester came from the tiny Channel island of Sark.
"I left home at 16 and worked as a groom," he said.
"My parents can't stand horses, actually...
"Hard work and dedication have paid off for all of us by very different routes."
All three British riders will be back in action in the individual dressage competition on Thursday (August 9).