Rio de Janeiro – August 12, 2016 – Allison Brock, Laura Graves, Kasey Perry-Glass and Steffen Peters put the United States dressage team back on the Olympic podium with a bronze medal finish at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Germany, as expected, captured the gold medal in dominating fashion, while Great Britain earned the silver medal.
This is the first medal for U.S. dressage since the 2004 Olympics in Athens, where the U.S. team of Lisa Wilcox on Relevant, Guenter Seidel on Aragon, Debbie McDonald on Brentina, and Robert Dover on Kennedy won the bronze. Dover is the chef d’equipe in Rio, and McDonald is on the scene as well, coaching her students Graves and Perry-Glass.
“We knew we had a chance, but when it actually happened, it was pretty amazing,” Peters said. “If you wanted to see a 52-year-old guy acting like a 10-year-old boy, you should have seen me in the stands when Laura was coming down centerline. I was crying my eyes out. It was just one of those absolutely amazing experiences.”
Both Germany and Great Britain had a clear path to the podium after putting themselves firmly in first and second during the Grand Prix, the first phase of team competition. They returned to the arena for Friday’s Grand Prix Special and did just what they needed to do, confirming their medal finishes. The battle for bronze, however, was a fierce one.
The U.S. team entered the second phase of competition with a narrow lead over the Dutch, who were down to three riders after Adelinde Cornelissen retired Parzival during the Grand Prix. The always-competitive Dutch, riding Friday morning, gave their all to ensure the U.S. would have to earn their spot on the podium. The afternoon session featured all athletes from the top three teams riding in a rotation, with the U.S. drawing first position in the order, Germany second and Great Britain third.
Accurate riding by Brock and a very steady, willing effort by her horse Rosevelt, with highlights in the extensions across all three gaits, earned the pair a 73.824 percent as the first down centerline in the afternoon team rotation.
“I was really happy with him,” Brock said. “He was really good, better than the Grand Prix, and a clean test. It was what we needed to do to set the stage for the rest of my teammates.”
Next up for the U.S., Kasey Perry-Glass and Dublet, had trouble early on with a costly break to canter in the first extended trot. They rebounded from there, with their top-notch passage and excellent tempi changes boosting their score, and finished on a mark of 73.235 percent.
Team veterans Steffen Peters and Legolas 92 also had uncharacteristic bobbles, breaking at the start of the left trot half-pass and working through a sticky moment going into piaffe. Like Perry-Glass, however, Peters kept his head in the game and capitalized on his horse’s strengths in other parts of the test. A fantastic final centerline helped them complete the test with a score of 74.622 percent, just above the average the team needed to maintain in the Special to secure bronze.
“We had a couple different fumbles; he lost his balance in the left half-pass,” Peters said. “We had a delayed reaction into the piaffe, but he did it beautifully. The rest of the test was very clean. He did his changes very nicely. I’m super happy with Legolas. We delivered for the team; that was my goal.”
As anchor rider Laura Graves prepared to head down centerline, nerves were running high among U.S. dressage supporters and fans. The team was sitting just fractions of a percent behind the Netherlands, and Graves’ ride would determine whether the U.S. could break its 12-year medal drought. But pressure only gives Graves added motivation. She asked Verdades to give her his all, and the pair’s nearly 13-year partnership paid off, as they turned in the best Grand Prix Special score of their career in the biggest venue they’ve seen yet. Their mark of 80.644 percent secured the bronze medal for the U.S.
“The elusive 80 percent! We captured it… it exists!” Graves said with a laugh. “I knew it was going well. You just always hope that your reflections match up with the judges’. To see my teammates so happy and to have a personal best with a score I’m been reaching for – it was the icing on our cake today.”
Graves’ score ranked her in fifth place overall in the Grand Prix Special. Germany’s Isabell Werth earned the highest mark of the day aboard Weihegold OLD, with their 83.711 percent relegating Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro to second place after a couple of small mistakes in their test. Werth was flanked by German teammates Dorothee Schneider in third and Kristina Bröring-Sprehe in fourth, both scoring above 80 percent, and even Sönke Rothenberger’s drop score was good enough for 10th.
“It was an amazing feeling,” Schneider said after her lovely ride aboard Showtime FRH. “The horse rode this test because he was absolutely motivated,; he wanted to do it with me together. He does such an amazing job with his hind leg, with the power, and he was absolutely in front of my aids.”
After Great Britain’s gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics, the Germans were happy to be back on top in Rio and to deliver on the great promise their team had showed entering the Games.
“I can’t remember a German team that went to an Olympic Games where four horses could go over 80 percent,” Werth said. “All four horses were really good over three days. This was much more than we expected. At the end, we are really proud and happy about the whole team. All worked together; there was a lot of confidence.”
With the team competition complete, the focus will shift to Monday’s individual final, the Grand Prix Freestyle. The top 18 combinations in the Special qualify, but since countries are limited to three competitors in the Freestyle, Rothenberger will not move forward. That gives Brock, who finished 19th in the Special, a berth in the Freestyle alongside Graves and Peters. The individual final looks to be quite competitive as Dujardin seeks to defend her title from the 2012 Olympics.
GOLD – Germany: 81.936
Sönke Rothenberger/Cosmo 59/(77.329) + (76.261)
Dorothee Schneider/Showtime FRH/80.986 + 82.619
Kristina Bröring-Sprehe/Desperados FRH/82.257 + 81.401
Isabell Werth/Weihegold OLD/80.643 + 83.711
SILVER – Great Britain: 78.595
Spencer Wilton/Super Nova II/(72.686) + (73.613)
Fiona Bigwood/Orthilia/77.157 + 74.342
Carl Hester/Nip Tuck/75.529 + 76.485
Charlotte Dujardin/GBR/Valegro/85.071 + 83.025
BRONZE – United States: 76.667
Allison Brock/Rosevelt/(72.686) + 73.824
Kasey Perry-Glass/Dublet/75.229 + (73.235)
Steffen Peters/Legolas 92/77.614 + 74.622
Laura Graves/Verdades/78.071 + 80.644
4. Netherlands: 75.517
Edward Gal/Voice/75.271 + 73.655
Diederik van Silfhout/Arlando/75.900 + 76.092
Hans Peter Minderhoud/Johnson/76.957 + 75.224
5. Sweden: 74.845
Mads Hendeliowitz/Jimmie Choo SEQ/(71.771) + (71.681)
Juliette Ramel/Buriel K.H./74.943 + 72.045
Patrik Kittel/Deja/74.586 + 73.866
Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén/Don Auriello/76.429 + 77.199
6. Denmark: 74.311
Anders Dahl/Selten HW/(69.900) + (71.232)
Agnete Kirk Thinggaard/Jojo AZ/72.229 + 72.465
Cathrine Dufour/Cassidy/76.657 + 76.050
Anna Kasprzak/Donnperignon/73.943 + 74.524