Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – August 15, 2016 – The top 18 individual riders after the Grand Prix Special advanced to Monday’s Grand Prix Freestyle at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, which proved to be a very competitive field with 10 riders earning scores over 80 percent. Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro defended their gold medal title at the 2012 London Olympics in the Grand Prix Freestyle, topping the leaderboard with an impressive 93.857 percent. Ten-time Olympic medalist Isabelle Werth of Germany earned the silver medal aboard Weihegold OLD with an 89.071 percent. Bronze Medalist Kristina Bröring-Sprehe and Desperados FRH received a score of 87.142 percent for Germany.
Dujardin and the 14-year-old KWPN gelding hold world records for all three Grand Prix divisions, and she joins cyclist Laura Trott as Great Britain’s top Olympians for earning three gold medals.
“Today was really magical,” Dujardin explained. “I think going to London [2012 Olympic Games] I had no expectation and no pressure to deliver gold individually and coming here, I really did feel for the first time nervous before coming in. I felt the expectation and pressure to deliver today and to retain the title I had in London. When I got in the arena and trotted around the outside, Valegro gave me the most incredible feeling. It put a smile on my face and I just knew then that it would be ok.
“It was one of those magical rides where you have that partnership, connection and bond with your horse and I just felt like nothing was going to break and everything just happened,” she continued. “It felt so effortless and easy. He tried so hard and the last centerline was really emotional for me because I thought he could not have done anymore if he had tried.”
The world record holding duo impressed the judges with her new freestyle that they only competed once prior to the Rio Olympic Games. Their artistic average was a 97.71 percent, which contributed to the overall total of 93.857 percent to claim the gold medal. They maintained the high quality of the piaffe in their piaffe pirouettes, and the difficult choreography included extended canter to double pirouettes and expressive tempi changes. The music included drumbeats to perfectly accentuate Valegro’s hoof falls.
“He has a heart of gold,” Dujardin said through tears. “He literally felt like he’d done his very best and I’m really emotional. I had a really lovely time. I knew I had to go in there and enjoy it and give it everything. I felt like he really looked after me and helped me. He did his best!”
Dujardin follows in the footsteps of 3 other riders who have won at least two gold medals in individual dressage: Anky Van Grunsven of the Netherlands, Henri Saint Cyr of Sweden, and Nicole Uphoff of Germany. With a total of two individual gold medals as well as gold and silver team Olympic medals, Dujardin admitted that Valegro’s retirement is on her mind.
“Retirement is on the cards,” Dujardin said. “We have not said when or what’s going to happen as that’s a discussion that Carl and I need to have when we get home. I think that’s why it’s been so emotional today because I know I won’t do another Olympics with him or another championship with him. He has been a horse of a lifetime. He’s a complete legend. To think what this horse has achieved in the last four and five years I’ve been riding him at Grand Prix level, is absolutely incredible. If you wrote down what he has achieved, you would read it and not think it was possible. I owe it to him to finish off at the top. I want everyone to remember him the way he is.”
Ten-time Olympic medalist Isabelle Werth of Germany earned the silver medal aboard 11-year-old Oldenburg mare Weihegold OLD with an 89.071 percent. By winning the individual silver medal Werth is the first athlete to win 10 medals in any equestrian discipline at an Olympic Games.
“I was really happy about winning the silver medal,” Werth said. “In April, I couldn’t expect to go to Rio and I couldn’t expect to win a gold medal or an individual medal. I really enjoyed my ride, and Charlotte really deserved the gold medal and in the end we are all happy!”
Last to go into the ring, Werth produced a relaxed and fluid test with only minor mistakes in the piaffe and extended trot. When asked about her plans for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games she explained that she hopes to continue competing and she gave well wishes for Valegro’s retirement.
“It’s really a shame on one hand [about Valegro], but I have huge respect for their decision to stop when the horse is at the top level,” Werth explained. “To have top sport it is always necessary to have good combinations and positive rivalries. I always enjoy competing against the best combinations.”
Werth’s German teammate Kristina Bröring-Sprehe and the 15-year-old Hanoverian stallion Desperados FRH came into the Olympic Games as the number one combination on the FEI World Individual Dressage Ranking list. Their difficult choreography highlighted his strength in his passage work and canter extension and the pair earned a 87.142 percent.
“It was a wonderful dream come true,” Bröring-Sprehe said. “I’ve always dreamt of having an Olympic medal and now we have the team gold and individual bronze, so it’s a wonderful feeling. I had a great feeling in the canter tour and pirouettes. He was willing to work the whole competition and I’m really proud.”
The United States qualified three riders for the Grand Prix Freestyle and they did not fail to impress. Laura Graves led the United States to a fourth place finish on her 14-year-old KWPN gelding Verdades with an 85.196 percent. Their freestyle, designed by Terry Ciotti Gallo, highlighted their seamless piaffe-passage transitions and a difficult movement of two tempis on a 20-meter circle before directly beginning the one tempis on a short diagonal.
“I am thrilled with the score!” Graves said. “I don’t feel like I had quite as much horse as I’ve had the past couple of days because it is very hot. Heat like this definitely takes a role in how much energy we all have. He stayed really honest and I can’t ask for more.”
She believes her system and the people she has around her accumulated to help her find success at the Olympic Games with personal bests in all three Grand Prix divisions.
“I believe in following a routine and I believe in finding a trainer you trust and staying with them,” Graves explained. “I am so blessed that both Robert [Dover] and my personal trainer Debbie McDonald have sacrificed so much of their time this summer to be over in Europe with us. It really has made a difference. This has been an incredible experience. To be here with this team and we have such a huge family of supporters who came this far just to be with us all. We sometimes forget that it’s more than just us and the horse, we do have so many people around us who make this happen. To watch what they sacrifice for our dream is something that is very emotional.”
Steffen Peters represented the United States with Four Wind Farm’s Legolas and the duo placed twelfth in the Grand Prix Freestyle with a 79.393 percent. The duo’s fun musical consisted of customized lyrics “Hey, It’s Legolas” to the tune of “Ice Ice Baby,” and they upped their degree of difficulty with a double canter pirouette before the canter-piaffe transition.
“We risked it all and I was hoping for a score around 80 percent and the judges agreed with me, so I am super happy,” Peters explained. “Today was 99 percent less pressure than the previous days so honestly I had a blast in there. I just loved it. He did everything I dreamed of and you don’t just hope that dreams come true you make the dreams come true. That’s what he did today.”
American Allison Brock and the 14-year-old Hanoverian stallion Rosevelt placed 15th with a personal best of 76.160 percent.
“He was very good, bless his heart!” Brock explained. “I just love the music. The canter music is from “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” and it’s that beautiful waltzy thing. I think it suits him quite well and the music doesn’t overwhelm the audience. It draws you into the horse more than you just hearing stuff. You have to pay attention and absorb it a little.”
The Grand Prix Freestyle marked the final day of dressage competition at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, but the show jumping competition will take place this week at the equestrian venue of Deodoro Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Results: Grand Prix Freestyle
Judges: K: Rockwell (USA)/E: Holler (GER)/H: Baarup (DEN)/C: Alonso (MEX)/M: Lang (AUT)/B: de Wolff van Westerrode (NED)/F: Clarke (GBR)
1. Charlotte Dujardin/GBR/Valegro/93.857
2. Isabell Werth/GER/Weihegold OLD/89.071
3. Kristina Bröring-Sprehe/GER/Desperados FRH/87.142
4. Laura Graves/USA/Verdades/85.196
5. Severo Jesus Jurado Lopez/ESP/Lorenzo/83.625
6. Dorothee Schneider/GER/Showtime FRH/82.946
7. Carl Hester/GBR/Nip Tuck/82.553
8. Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén/SWE/Don Auriello/81.535
9. Hans Peter Minderhoud/NED/Johnson/80.571
10. Beatriz Ferrer-Salat/ESP/Delgado/80.161
11. Diederik van Silfhout/NED/Arlando/79.535
12. Steffen Peters/USA/Legolas92/79.393
13. Cathrine Dufour/DEN/Cassidy/78.143
14. Anna Kasprzak/DEN/Donnperignon/76.982
15. Allison Brock/USA/Rosevelt/76.160
16. Patrik Kittel/SWE/Deja/76.018
17. Fiona Bigwood/GBR/Orthilia/76.018
18. Judy Reynolds/IRL/Vancouver K/75.696