Charlotte Dujardin’s wonder year continues with her nomination for the BT sport action woman of the year title, when she will be backed by one of the greatest names in equestrian sport, six-times Badminton winner Lucinda Green.
Charlotte has also been nominated for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, and last week was named Sunday Times/Sky Sports sportswoman of the year, so she could end up with a trio of accolades.
Charlotte’s nomination comes as the culmination of a year she describes as “just incredible”. She won the World Cup Final in Lyon, broke another world record in the grand prix in April, then won two golds and a team silver medal at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) in August.
The highlight for her was in Caen, France: “It was my first appearance at WEG and to come away with three medals was a fantastic achievement. The atmosphere in Normandy was like nothing else. I had a huge reception when I entered the arena and it literally sent shivers down my spine,” she said.
Charlotte’s nomination for the BT action woman title “means the world” to the rider.
“To be among these athletes is humbling. I just hope this brings more awareness to the sport and it will be broadcast more often. This would open up channels for investment, which would be great for the next generation and this is so important to me.”
Life is clearly less turbulent than in 2012 when Valegro was nearly sold and she suffered the near breakdown of her relationship with fiancée Dean. She admits that: “In the run up to London, I was chasing the dream, then it happened beyond my expectations. After London it was such a massive comedown.
“There was suddenly loads of press attention and I was dealing with the prospect of Valegro being sold. I was used to spending my days on the yard riding and teaching and suddenly I was in front of the camera and having to spend time in London. Dean said the newspapers knew more about me than he did and it put a huge strain on my relationship and we split up for three months. Having Carl [Hester], friends, family and my horses helped me pull it all together and focus on other goals, like the World Cup.”
Carl added: “There are lots of talented people out there riding but I think what makes her so special is her grit and determination. She never gives up. It’s the confidence as well; she is really confident with Valegro and that has made them a winning partnership. Everyone refers to dressage as ‘dancing with horses’ and I think that’s a perfect way to describe their relationship.”
“We train together, laugh together and neither of us would have been as successful without each other. We can work everyday to such a high standard and can motivate each other. Not many people have that.
“After the success of London it was inevitable we were going to be offered lots of money [to sell Valegro] and of course it was very tempting but the team consists of Charlotte, Valegro, his owner Roly and myself and there is a strong bond between all of us. But he will remain here for good, retire and get fat here, like the rest of us.”
He joked: “He’s only 12 and Charlotte is only in her 20s and they could go on winning medals for years.”
Lucinda Green will be attending the BT Sport Action Woman Awards in December as Charlotte’s official supporter and she has a very neat summary of their respective skills in the fiendishly difficult sport.
“She can, I can’t,” she said. “But I am thrilled to be supporting her. Charlotte has that feel through her bones and being of how to bring out in a horse when she’s riding him what he can naturally do when free in a field. She can give a horse the balance, confidence, trust and understanding, gradually over the years, to be able to perform these different movements exactly on request.
“I never had that feel in my bones — mine was for cross-country fences, which had the same fascination for me as dressage does for Charlotte. Both require ever-widening understanding of the horse and his way of thinking and physical abilities.”
For Charlotte the year just keeps getting better.
“It’s mind-blowing but I do feel humbled to be inspiring riders of all ages to pursue their passions and enjoy their horses,” she said. “I would never call myself an icon, but I hope that people see what ‘Blueberry’ and I have achieved and know that anything is possible if you work hard enough for it.”
The BT Sport Action Woman of the Year will be decided by public vote and the awards show presented by Clare Balding will air on BT Sport on 10 December.
Charlotte is one of 10 finalists among Britain’s most high-achieving sportswomen including Jo Pavey — the Commonwealth bronze medallist and European champion long distance runner; Claudia Frangapane — the gold medal winning gymnast; Helen Glover andHeather Stanning — Olympic and world rowing champions and record holders and Fara Williams — the most capped England football player of all time (men or women).
Host Clare Balding said: “I’m delighted that Charlotte’s success has been recognised in the widest sporting sphere. Just three years ago, when I was asked what the ‘dark horse’ of London 2012 would be, I said ‘dressage’. The men on the panel all laughed. Well now it’s confirmed — dressage has arrived and it’s largely thanks to Charlotte and Valegro, with a lot of help from Carl Hester. Bring on the dancing horses!”
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