9 Aug 2012

Dujardin snatches Team GB dressage gold

British equestrian sport achieves its best-ever Olympic medals haul, as Charlotte Dujardian wins gold in the equestrian dressage with the final routine of the competition.

Equestrian Dressage

The British team have won five medals in total: dressage team and individual gold, dressage individual bronze showjumping gold, and eventing silver.

Team GB’s three equestrian dressage riders, Laura Bechtolsheimer, Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin, were hot favourites for medal places after securing the gold in the team event on Monday, in which Dujardin clocked the highest individual score, with Hester in second place.

In today’s individual final the Team GB riders were among the last four to perform. Bechtolsheimer was first of the Team GB equestrians, riding 17-year-old Mistral Hojris, and was chasing a top score by Germany’s Helen Langehanenberg of 84.303 per cent.

Dorothee Schneider of Germany was in bronze medal position with a score of 81.661 per cent.

In equestrian dressage the riders execute a series of moves which are marked by a team of judges, with the maximum score potentially achievable for a completely flawless routine, of 100 per cent.

Near-perfect routine

Performing to music from the Lion King – the judges mark how in time with the music the horse is – Laura Bechtolscheimer achieved a near-perfect routine. Bechtolsheimer punched the air and was clearly overcome with emotion as she finished the routine.

Bechtolsheimer was awarded 84.339 per cent – putting her into the gold medal position and guaranteeing Team GB an individual medal.

Next up was Carl Hester riding Uthopia, who also produced a very confident series of moves. Hester scored 82.857 per cent – putting him into the bronze medal position.

The penultimate rider was Adelinde Cornelissen of the Netherlands – the only rider who could disrupt Team GB’s hopes of Olympic gold. The former school teacher was awarded a massive 88.196 per cent – pushing Bechtolsheimer into silver medal position and denying Hester a podium finish.

Patriotic themes

Dujardin was the last rider in the competition, riding Valegro – a horse given to her by Hester. Performing to a mixture of music including a James Bond theme, Hubert Parry’s Jerusalem and Edward Elgar’s Land of Hope and Glory, Dujardin also produced a near perfect dressage performance.

Dujardin scored 90.89 per cent to win gold.

The result is an upset in a sport that has been dominated by Germany and the Netherlands for the past 20 years.

Breaking stereotypes?

Bechtolsheimer fits the stereotype of equestrian privilege. She is the grand-daughter of German billionaire property tycoon Karl-Heinz Kipp and her father is horse trainer Dr Wilfred Bechtolsheimer. She was privately educated in Wiltshire and is friends with the royals.

She started riding aged three after being given a pony called Peacock for her birthday.

Hester and Dujardin, however, come from different backgrounds. Hester grew up on the car-free Channel Island of Sark and learnt to ride on the back of donkeys pulling carts.

Aged 19, he left Sark to work with horses in Hampshire. In 1989 he went to work for Dr Bechtolsheimer and was trained by him in dressage.

Dujardin, 26, left her comprehensive school at 16 to work in stables. The pony-mad schoolgirl went on to work for dressage rider Judy Harvey before going to work for Hester. She lives with her fiance in a cottage at Hester’s equestrian yard in Gloucestershire.

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