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‘My childhood dream’: Charlotte Dujardin on Olympia and the Olympics

Charlotte Dujardin hopes her Tokyo hopeful ride Mount St John Freestyle will rise to the occasion next week as she once more fulfils her childhood dream of riding at Olympia.

In an interview this week, Charlotte said she remembers sitting in the stands in the Grand Hall at the London International Horse Show, where she is due to compete on Freestyle next Monday and Tuesday (16 and 17 December).

“I used to watch the riders thinking ‘I wish I was there!’ and to think I do now, and I’ve won there; I feel incredibly lucky,” she said.

“There’s nowhere else that can create the atmosphere Olympia does.

“When you’re warming up or training out the back, there’s you, your groom, trainer and maybe a few other riders and it’s so quiet – and then you go through the curtain and the crowd’s so close you could almost touch them. It’s an incredible feeling.”

Charlotte said Freestyle usually copes well with such environments, but as the mare has not competed at Olympia – she has taken part in a demonstration there – she cannot be sure how she will react.

“Some horses can get quite nervous or shy,” Charlotte said. “Freestyle’s normally pretty brave and I don’t have to worry about her being spooky, and she did [the World Cup qualifier at] Lyon recently, where there’s a lot of people so hopefully she’ll rise to the occasion and really perform.”

Charlotte said her “ultimate goal” with 10-year-old Freestyle is next year’s Olympics.

“She’s still a very young and inexperienced grand prix horse,” she said. “In her first year last year she went to the World Equestrian Games and came away with two bronze medals; this year we’ve upped things a bit more to give her more experience.”

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Charlotte said she found things hard after her superstar Valegro retired three years ago, as she had a year out of top competition.

“But I’ve picked it back up and I’m enjoying being back out,” she said. “With Valegro, there was a lot of pressure and expectation and it sometimes took away some of the enjoyment.

“So to come out on Freestyle, a new horse, I didn’t have the same feeling but I really feel she’s a top horse, an exciting one for the future.”

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