The Freestyle! The Individual Dressage Medals! Today’s the day and British fans has gone all out with flags and fascinators to show their support for the British riders. The sun was shining brilliantly on this last day of dressage as we took out seats. I knew this would be a hard fought competition. The British hopes were with Charlotte, Carl and Laura. But Adelinde was a serious competitor with an excellent freestyle already proven to be a winner. Helen Langehanenberg had declared in an interview that she was in it to win it. Then there was the rising young German star Kristina Sprehe who had shown winning form in the freestyle.
We were to have the pleasure of watching the top fifteen horses and riders. These are the best in the world and what a luxury to spend a sunny, if somewhat hot, afternoon watching these horses and riders dance to the music. The fourth rider in Goncalo Carvalho, of Portugal, on Rubi is a personal favourite. This marvellous, compact, Lusitano stallion is such a hard worker. He looks like he is trying his very best for his rider. The piaffe on the centerline was performed one handed just to show us how well Rubi could perform.
Sixth in were Tinne Wilhelmsen and Don Aurellio. Their music was a specially arranged version of songs from the musical Tommy. I really liked the music but felt that Tinne was sometimes not with the music as some of the transitions did not seem to fit with the music’s transitions.
Steffen Peters and Ravel were first in after the break. I have great admiration for this combination but today was just not their day. The freestyle has a very high degree of difficulty but today they struggled with the execution. The piaffe pirouettes especially seemed to present problems.
As Edward Gal entered the stadium the announcer told us about his victory in the European Championships in Windsor in 2009 with Totilas. Somehow I felt that although his time with Totilas was a great time he might not want to be thinking about that now as he enters the Olympic freestyle on a horse he has not been riding for even a year. Their music was very dramatic and suited the pair well. The test was well ridden with loads of hind end engagement and tempis arrow straight. His score of 80.26 went to the top of the leaderboard.
The tenth rider was Anky van Grunsven and Salinero. I actually felt rather emotional knowing this would be the last time I would see this pair in the competition ring. At 18 years of age Salinero will not be competing for much longer, if at all. Anky is a consummate professional and rode for every point. She cleverly took the walk along the long side. It has not been Salinero’s strong point and she was going to give it what help she could. She replaced Edward at the top of the leaderboard with 82%.
Then we were entertained by Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz and the wonderful Fuego. Spanish music accompanied their ride. Juan Manuel gave a demonstration of piaffe right in front of Stephen Clark in the judges box at C. It was as if Fuego was saying:” How do you like this?” The movements were executed in perfect timing to the music, the ones were performed one handed and passage one handed as well. You have to hand it to Juan Manuel he knows how to win over a crowded stadium. His audience had trouble not clapping in time to the music. His score: 79.375%.
Kristina Sprehe and Desperados followed. Good extended trot, pirouettes really up in front, ones arrow straight, this is a pair for the future for sure. 81.375% was their score and I knew that the final six riders would give us our medal winners.
Helen Langehanenberg was the first of the final six riders to go. Damon Hill is such a stunning horse. Today there were a few small errors in transitions but they still earned a score of 84.303%. The scores were creeping up!
Rider number 15 was Laura Bechtolsheimer and when she entered the stadium you could hear a pin drop. Yes ,seriously, I have never heard a stadium with some 25,000 people be so still and quite. It seemed that everyone knew that for this horse we had to be very quiet to give him his best chance. Their passage tempo fit perfectly to the Lion King music, the extended canter was flying, the piaffe was fabulous. They went into first place.
Carl Hester and Uthopia followed. The extended trot was a 10 as usual but there were some mistakes and a score of 82.857
Then came Adelinde Cornelissen and Parzival. She was riding to win. Beautiful ride to the music of Swan Lake and the Nutcracker for a score of 88.25! Could Charlotte top that?
Charlotte’s music is British to the core with the canter pirouettes to the chimes of Big Ben, and extended canter to Elgar’s ‘Land of Hope and Glory’. It was really wonderful but just at the end a miscommunication coming out of canter. Would it pull down her score? We clapped and cheered as she left the arena but I knew everyone was wondering……would it be enough? We had to wait. Seconds ticked by. Charlotte left the stadium and rode Valegro out to the warm up area. Then up went the score. A roar rose from the stadium. 90.089! She had done it. On the big screen we could see Charlotte burst into tears. The relief of weeks, months, of pressure and today especially intense pressure was relieved. Britain has been doing extremely well in these Olympics and the expectations on the athletes have grown exponentially. But I also knew that Charlotte’s emotions came from the knowledge that Valegro was to be sold after the Olympics. He may already be sold as I write this. In a perfect world someone would buy him to give the ride to her. Perhaps that could actually happen so that this marvellous partnership can continue.
The medal ceremony was the topping on the cake. The world’s press photographers lined up to take pictures of the three winners as Charlotte, Adelinda and Laura rode into the stadium. As God Save the Queen was played the flags of Britain, and the Netherlands rose right behind where we were sitting. The medal winners gave us a victory round .
What a thrill to be there for such an exciting climax to the Olympic dressage. I can honestly say that coming to London for the London 2012 Olympics has been the experience of a lifetime. To be here when Britain has really cleaned up in the medal department (they are currently in third place behind China and the USA both of which have huge populations in comparison to Britain); to feel the buzz of excitement in every corner of this great city; to experience the efficiency of the security, transport and tireless good humor of all the volunteers has made this a truly wonderful experience. I shall return home tomorrow with my head spinning with wonderful memories.
My thanks to Omega Alpha for presenting all of my Olympic blogs.