London 2012 Olympic champion Charlotte Dujardin (GBR) and Valegro defended their title and took the gold decisively with 93.857%, ahead of silver medalist Isabell Werth (GER) scoring 89.071% Weihegold OLD, while fellow German and world #1 Kristina Broring-Sprehe grabbed the bronze riding Desperados FRH with 87.142%.
Charlotte, 31, added a second individual Olympic gold to her trophy case along with World Championship, World Cup and European Championship honours. “It is absolutely incredible. I can’t believe it. I am so overwhelmed,” she said afterward, “This is what I really love doing; I really enjoy the music and Valegro does, too.” She had only ridden this particular music, which fittingly included lots of Samba beats, once before. “It is a new freestyle. I rode it only the second time. It was just magical. I got really emotional down the last centre line. He always goes in to give me his very best. It felt absolutely effortless.”
Going fourth from last in the order, Dujardin had no way of knowing if her score would hold up against those who came after. She had decided, “If I don’t win, I know I could not have done better. Valegro definitely could not do any more.” The pair had scored 90.089 at their last Olympics in London, and 94s at London Olympia and the World Cup Finals in Las Vegas last year. They currently sit 52nd on the world ranking list, as they have recently only competed lightly ‒ just twice this year at Hartpury.
She was asked how it felt being constantly sandwiched between and/or chased by Germans. “I’m always squeezed in between Germans!” she said, laughing. “I can’t get away from them. It’s fine – they are the best. Having a rider like Isabell, she has taught me to fight, because she is a fighter. There is no other rider out there that I look at that wants it more than Isabell and I think that’s where I get my fight. Somebody came up to me after the grand prix, one of the German trainers, and said ‘you are an animal – you want it.’ I got that from Isabell, because I see her grit her teeth and there is nothing that’s going to stop her going down that centre line for a faultless test.”
“Same with Carl, you watch him ride and he makes it look so easy. Without these older riders – no offence! – encouraging us younger riders, giving us the confidence, determination and the courage when you watch them ride, that’s what it’s all about. I hope people at home get to see that and get inspired by what we do.”
As promised, prior to the Freestyle Dujardin made the trek to see Christ the Redeemer, the famous statue which looms over Rio. “We went up there, but it was really cloudy so we couldn’t see him that great,” she said. “I still got on my knees and prayed – maybe that helped.”
The KWPN gelding Valegro is now 14, but the question of retirement is still up in the air. “That’s a discussion for me and Carl to have when we get back home,” said Dujardin, “That’s why it’s been so emotional today. I know I’m not going to do another Olympics with him. I’m probably not going to do another massive Championship with him. He’s been the horse of a lifetime, he’s a complete legend. To think what that horse has achieved in the last four or five years that I’ve been riding him at Grand Prix level, it’s absolutely incredible. If you write down what he has achieved, you would read it and think that’s not possible. I owe it to him to finish at the top and for everybody to remember him the way he is. It doesn’t mean he’s going to go home and do nothing, I’ll still try and do demonstrations and things, and we are not sure when that’s going to happen, but it’s definitely in the cards.”
She talked about her fiancé of four years, Dean Wyatt Golding, who put her on the spot a little at these Games. “Dean has waited a long time. He asked me [to marry him] just before London and I said yes.” He wore a t-shirt here in Rio which read “Now can we get married?”
German Silver and Bronze
Isabell Werth described the conditions today facing horses and riders. “It was a lot of sweat, it was really hot today. It was hard for the horses with the different temperatures here. It was really fantastic how our horses came through it and worked with it. I was really happy about it to win the silver medal.
“I remember in April, I couldn’t expect that she would go to Rio. I couldn’t expect the gold medal. I couldn’t expect to win an individual medal, so to come here today with silver …
“When I went in, I knew that Charlotte had 93 or 94%, so I knew that we will not have the next world wonder, but I tried and it was just really fun today. I enjoyed my ride. It was fantastic for us for the German team to win the gold and then with bronze and silver. I think Charlotte really deserved the gold medal at the end and we are all happy.”
She spoke of her partnership with the 11-year-old Oldenburg mare Weihegold OLD. “I knew the horse for nearly four years, so it’s nothing new. I think I had a really important experience in Aachen, because I had a very good first competition and then the curve went down and so I had to make it better here. This worked really well, we had three great competitions and nearly perfect Special and today just a little mistake in the extension. In the end, it was really a great show for me; a great Olympic Games.”
Kristina Broring-Sprehe talked about plans for the Hanoverian stallion Desperados FRH. “After these Olympics, first of all there will be a pause for Desperados; it might even be a longer pause. During the winter months it’s possible that he will go into reproduction again. Then I will go talk to Monica Theodorescu and she and I will determine a further plan.”
Being in the final group that had to wait the longest to compete today, Werth admitted, “I did tremble for a bit, but it was all worth it. It was a wonderful dream come true.”
With Valegro not likely to be on the world stage much longer, how does that affect the Germans and their path to individual gold? “It’s really a shame, I can understand on one hand, but big respect to stop with your horse when at the top level,” said Werth. “It’s really not that I’m happy about this. To have top sport it’s always necessary to have a lot of good combinations and rivalry. I really enjoy to compete against the best combinations; the more you have, the more you have a great show for the spectators and media.”