Germany has won a third Olympic gold medal in Hong Kong, as the dressage team retained its unbeaten record since 1976, chiefly thanks to the supreme performance by anchorwoman Isabell Werth (pictured) whose test was a cheering climax to a hot and steamy evening.
The Netherlands is second, after a brave challenge from Anky van Grunsven, whose Salinero had a few shaky moments.
“A little calm would have been better, but this is Salinero,” shrugged Anky. “I forgot about the team gold medal, when neither of our first two horses were good enough. We had an unfortunate draw.
“I don’t like the new format [of three riders in a team], because you have some teams getting two riders on the first day, and others on the second, and if you have a disaster, the team if out. Let’s hope it’s the last year!”
With many horses performing below-par in 27-degree heat and 81% humidity, such as Jan Brink’s Briar (68.87%) and defending bronze medallist Debbie Macdonald’s Brentina (63%), Britain had a great chance to challenge Denmark for the bronze medal, especially as Emma Hindle was only overtaken by Anky and Isabell.
A medal looked a thrilling reality at the beginning of Laura Bechtolsheimer’s test. She began by scoring 73 and 74% for magnificent work, but Mistral Hojris was getting hot and became difficult to contain.
Laura, who was endearingly honest afterwards about being overwhelmed, lost her way in the piaffe-passage transition, ending up in the wrong place and was forced to do a half-circle to get back on track.
After this, the performance deteriorated to a final score of 65.91%, though, in 24th place, she does make the cut for the individual grand prix special on Saturday and a second chance to show what she undoubtedly can do.
“My hands were full and I lost my bearings,” admitted Laura. “I can’t really explain it. He was going for gold, but I wasn’t really with him.”
Britain thus finished sixth, behind the USA and Sweden, but the final team averages were actually very close, with Britain just 2% off bronze.
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