Germany has a long and formidable record in Olympic dressage. Since the team competition was first introduced in Amsterdam (NED) in 1928, when the German side pinned Sweden into silver and The Netherlands into bronze, they have won 13 of the 20 Olympic team contests. And it’s looking very much like gold number 14 is just around the corner.
The loss to Great Britain at London in 2012 was the only blip in an otherwise seamless run that began in Los Angeles in 1984 when the great Reiner Klimke and Ahlerich led the victory gallop. Despite all the disruption of the last 18 months due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) outbreak in mainland Europe, Team Germany arrive at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games as defending champions and strong favourites to do it all over again.
Isabell Werth heads the line-up with the mare Bella Rose and holding the World number one slot. And, underpinning the sheer strength of the German challenge, she will be joined by World numbers two and four, Jessica von Bredow-Werndl with TSF Dalera BB and Dorothee Schneider with Showtime FRH. With Helen Langehanenberg and her mare Annabelle in reserve, they seem like an unstoppable force.
However, the three-per team format introduced for this year’s Games could prove highly influential. One off day for just one team member and the story could be very different indeed, because every ride will be critical.
At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Great Britain claimed silver and The Netherlands took team bronze and this time around the British send the dynamic duo of Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester once again, but both on relatively unexposed horses.
Dujardin’s decision to take the 10-year-old Gio instead of her considerably more experienced 12-year-old mare Mount St John Freestyle who was in great form at Hagen (GER) in April and who swept all before her at the home international at Wellington (GBR) in May came as a surprise. But the athlete whose record-breaking partnership with the now-retired Valegro has helped popularise this sport like few before her, is backed up by the evergreen Hester and Charlotte Fry with Everdale, and she’s always going to be highly competitive.
Edward Gal with Total US and Hans Peter Minderhoud with Dream Boy headline the Dutch team, Patrik Kittel (Well Done de la Roche) leads the Swedish contingent and Steffen Peters (Suppenkasper) will be a strong anchor for Team USA. Meanwhile Team Belgium will be making a little bit of Olympic history as they make their first appearance since 1928.
When it comes to the individual honours all eyes will be on Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour and her fabulous horse Bohemian. The pair posted a back-to-back double of wins at the first leg of the FEI Dressage World Cup™ 2020/2021 series on home ground in Aarhus (DEN), pinning Germany’s Werth and von Bredow-Werndl into second and third.
But when the Covid cloud broke long enough for another leg to take place in Salzburg (AUT) in January, von Bredow-Werndl showed a whole new level of performance with her 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games™ gold-medal partner TSF Dalera BB, who has gone from strength to strength ever since. Now this pair look a real threat to all the rest in the battle for individual Olympic glory.
However, at Olympic Games the show-stealers are often the less obvious. Australia’s Mary Hanna, whose horse Calanta was the very first to arrive into the stables at Baji Koen Equestrian Park in Tokyo early last week, is a case in point. Because equestrian fans all around the world are already putting their hearts behind this mother of two and grandmother of four who, at the age of 66, is tackling her sixth Olympics.
Apart from the Beijing Games in 2008, she has been a member of every Australian Olympic Dressage team since 1996, and that’s quite some record. She’s as proud as ever to be flying her country’s flag alongside Kelly Layne riding Samhitas and Simone Pearce with Destano.
The last time Olympic Games were staged in Tokyo in 1964, Baji Koen was the venue for Dressage which was a very different sport back then.
In the Grand Prix the scores were announced after each ride, and after the ride-off – which was filmed and then mulled over by judges Frantisek Jandl, Gustaf Nyblaeus and Georges Margot – the public, the teams and the media had to wait for two hours before the final results were announced. It should be a bit quicker this time around!
Swiss supremo Henri Chammartin with Woerman, was eventually deemed the Individual champion, and the team title went to Germany’s Harry Boldt with Remus, Josef Neckermann with Antoinette and Reiner Klimke with Dux.
How it will play out…..
The FEI Grand Prix test, in which all athletes must participate, will take place on 24 and 25 July and is a qualifier for both the team and individual competitions. The qualification ranking will be decided by the results of all three team members.
Athletes compete in six groups, with three groups competing on each day. The composition of the groups is based on the FEI World Ranking list position of the athlete/horse combination on the date of definite entries (5 July 2021).
The top eight teams in the Grand Prix (and those tied for eighth place) will qualify for the FEI Grand Prix Special on 27 July. During the period between the Team Qualifier (Grand Prix) and up to two hours before the start of the Team Final (Grand Prix Special), the Chef d’Equipe may substitute an athlete/horse combination. However, the substitute combination will not be entitled to compete in the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle.
The Freestyle to Music is a standalone competition to decide the individual champion.
The Dressage Tests are the FEI Grand Prix, the FEI Grand Prix Special and the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle.
Facts & Figures
- 30 countries
- 15 teams
- 15 countries represented by individual competitors
- 60 horse/athlete combinations
- Germany are defending team champions and are chasing down their 14th Olympic Equestrian Dressage team title
- In the history of Olympic Equestrian Dressage, which dates back to 1912, Germany has long been the dominant force, taking 13 team and seven individual titles
- Defending individual champion is Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin, who scooped double-gold with the great Valegro at London 2012 and individual gold at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games
- Dujardin and Valegro consistently set World Records throughout their spectacular career together and continue to hold all three World Records in Dressage (FEI Grand Prix, FEI Grand Prix Special and FEI Grand Prix Freestyle)
- At the London International Horse Show in 2014 they set the Grand Prix record at 87.460%, and at the same event posted a new Freestyle World Record when achieving 94.300%
- The Grand Prix Special World Record score of 88.022%, which they set at Hagen (GER) in 2012 has never been beaten
- Germany’s Isabell Werth (51) will be competing in her sixth Olympic Games. The most medalled athlete in the history of equestrian sport, she has 10 Olympic medals in her trophy cabinet and six of them are gold, the first awarded in Barcelona (ESP) in 1992 and the last at Rio de Janeiro (BRA) in 2016
- At Rio, Werth surpassed the record held for many years by The Netherlands’ Anky van Grunsven, who collected nine Olympic medals throughout her spectacular career
- Riding Gigolo, Werth claimed individual gold in Atlanta (USA) in 1996 and she is a four-time individual silver medallist
- Caroline Chew, 27, is set to become the first Singaporean to compete in equestrian sport at the Olympic Games when she participates in Dressage.
Dressage Ground Jury President is Germany’s Katrina Wuest.
Dressage Ground Jury members are: Andrew Gardner (GBR), Francis Verbeek (NED), Hans-Christian Matthiesen (DEN), Janet Foy (USA), Susie Hoevenaars (AUS) and Magnus Ringmark (SWE).
FEI Delegate for Dressage is Australia’s Mary Seefried
The Judges Supervisory Panel (JSP) was introduced by the FEI in 2011 to provide an official back-up system to correct any marking errors at all major events, including Olympic Games.
The members of the JSP at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are: David Hunt (GBR), Liselotte Fore (USA) and Maribel Alonso (MEX).
Overall Chef Steward is Maria Hernek (SWE).
Dressage Chief Steward is Jacques van Daele (BEL)
One of the most identifiable officials on duty throughout the Games will be the colourful Arena Call-up/Steward and Ringmaster, Pedro Cebulka (CAN).
Australia: Mary Hanna (Calanta), Kelly Layne (Samhitas), Simone Pearce (Destano).
Austria: Florian Bacher (Fidertraum), Victoria Max-Theurer (Abegglen NRW), Christian Schumach (Te Quiero SF).
Belgium: Laurence Roos (Fil Rouge), Domien Michiels (Intermezzo van het Meerdaalhof), Larissa Pauluis (Flambeau). Alternate: Alexa Fairchild (Dabanos D’O4).
Canada: Brittany Fraser-Beaulieu (All In), Lindsay Kellock (Sebastien), Chris von Martels (Eclips). Alternate: Naima Moreira Laliberte (Statesman).
Denmark: Cathrine Dufour (Bohemian), Carina Kassae Krüt (Heiline’s Danciera), Nanna Skodborg Merrald (Zack). Alternate: Charlotte Heering (Bufranco).
France: Alexandre Ayache (Zo What), Morgan Barbancon (Sir Donnerhall ll OLD), Maxime Collard (Cupido PB). Alternate: Isabelle Pinto (Hot Chocolat VD Kwaplas).
Germany: Isabell Werth (Bella Rose 2), Jessica von Bredow-Werndl (TSF Dalera BB), Dorothee Schneider (Showtime FRH). Alternate: Helen Langehanenberg (Annabelle 110).
Great Britain: Charlotte Dujardin (Gio), Charlotte Fry (Everdale), Carl Hester (En Vogue). Alternate: Gareth Hughes (Sintano van Hof Olympia).
Japan: Kazuki Sado (Ludwig Der Sonnenkoenig 2), Shingo Hayashi (Scolari 4), Hiroyuki Kitahara (Huracan 10). Alternate: Masanao Taahashi (Rubicon).
Netherlands: Marlies Van Baalen (Go Legend), Edward Gal (Total US), Hans Peter Minderhoud (Dream Boy). Alternate: Dinja van Liere (Haute Couture).
Portugal: Joao Miguel Torrao (Equador), Maria Caetano (Fenix de Tineo), Rodrigo Torres (Foqoso). Alternate: Carlos Pinro (Sultao Menezes).
ROC: Inessa Merkulova (Mister X), Tatyana Kosterina (Diavolessa VA), Aleksandra Maksakova (Bojengels). Alternate: Maria Shuvalova (Famous Cross).
Spain: Beatriz Ferrer-Salat (Elegance), Severo Jurado Lopez (Fendi T), Jose Antonio Garcia Mena (Sorento 15). Alternate: Jose Antonio Garcia Mena (Divina Royal).
Sweden: Patrik Kittel (Well Done De La Roche CHF), Therese Nilshagen (Dante Weltino OLD), Juliette Ramel (Buriel KH). Alternate: Antonia Ramel (Brother de Jeu).
USA: Adrienne Lyle (Salvino), Steffen Peters (Suppenkasper), Sabine Schut-Kery (Sanceo). Alternate: Nick Wagman (Don John).
Brazil: Joao Victor Marcari Oliva (Escorial).
Chile: Virginia Yarur (Ronaldo).
Dominican Republic: Yvonne Losos de Muniz (Aquamarijn).
Estonia: Dina Ellermann (Donna Anna).
Finland: Henri Ruoste (Kontestro DB).
Ireland: Heike Holstein (Sambuca).
Italy: Francesco Zaza (Wispering Romance).
Korea: Dong Seon Kim (Belstaff).
Luxembourg: Nicolas Wagner Ehlinger (Quater Back Junior FRH).
Morocco: Yessin Rahmouni (All At Once).
Mexico: Martha Fernanda Del Valle Quirarte (Beduino Lam).
Republic of South Africa: Tanya Seymour (Ramoneur 6).
Singapore: Caroline Chew (Tribiani).
Switzerland: Estelle Wettstein (West Side Story OLD).
Ukraine: Inna Logutenkova (Fleraro).
The full list HERE.
FEI Olympic Hub HERE.