‘Strong competition pushes us to top performances’: Isabell Werth seeking to reclaim Olympic gold 25 years after Atlanta title

  • German dressage star Isabell Werth and Bella Rose 2 topped the final grand prix dressage session at the Tokyo Olympics to take them a step closer to completing their full set of world, European and Olympic titles as a combination.

    Isabell and the 17-year-old mare have won gold medals at every senior championship they have contested as a combination so far, and they impressed the judges once again with their performance here.

    The pair scored 10s in every piaffe, with more 10s awarded for their transitions between piaffe and passage, to finish on a score of 82.5%. This pushed them ahead of provisional group leaders, Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin and Gio (80.96%).

    “It’s always very important that you have a strong field and that you have strong competitors, because then you push each other to top performances,” she said. “That’s a special feeling, atmosphere, and the spirit in a competition, which makes a difference.”

    Isabell, the most decorated Olympic rider of all time, was wearing the same pair of riding boots she has worn at every championship since 1991. She last won the individual Olympic dressage title at Atlanta 1996 and has five team golds and four individual silver to her name. Bella Rose 2 (Bellissimo x Cacir AA), owned by Madeleine Winter-Schulze, is the reigning world and European champion. A win in Tokyo would add the final senior gold championship medal to their collection.

    She added the mare coped well with the heat and humidity, explaining the conditions feel similar to those at the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon.

    “I was really pleased and happy with Bella, she was very concentrated and focused and I could take risks,” she said, adding she has a “two or three” little things to work on ahead of the special and freestyle.

    “Bella is my dream horse and when Bella is in top shape, then for me, she’s the best.

    “[It’s down to her] way of moving, her character, her charisma and then the way her piaffe/passage on the centre line. Of course Weihe and also the younger ones [are fantastic as well], but with her you have the feeling there’s always something more possible.”

    At 17, Bella is one of the older horses competing at these Games, but Isabell said the extra year has made no difference to her.

    “She feels really fresh and you can see how motivated she is,” she added.

    The pair’s grand prix performance was awarded the second-highest mark across all groups, behind teammate Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and TSF Daleria (84.34%), although all riders will start again from a clean slate in both the team and individual finals.

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