Rio de Janeiro – August 10, 2016 – Germany entered the 2016 Rio Olympic Games as the favorite for team gold, and they wasted no time in rolling to the top of the leaderboard on an eventful opening day of dressage competition. Two athletes for each team competed in Wednesday’s Grand Prix session, with two more – generally the top ranked athletes of the team – still to come Thursday.
Horses and riders from all countries dealt admirably throughout the day with the sound of gunfire from military training exercises at the adjacent military base. In addition, a bullet was found near the stables. At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, media were assured that there was no risk of direct shooting at the venue and there will be no further military training in the area as the competition continues.
Germany holds Great Britain at bay
Germany’s 21-year-old Sönke Rothenberger, who is the newcomer on a team of accomplished veterans, laid down a mark of 77.329 percent on Cosmo 59 as the first to go for Germany. That mark stayed at the top of the leaderboard until teammate Dorothee Schneider, the final rider of the day, bested it with a score of 80.986 percent on Showtime FRH.
“He felt really happy in this arena, and I think we showed a safe round,” Rothenberger said. “I’m really happy with my horse. He’s the youngest horse in the field. Of course it’s a big arena, but in there you’re so concentrated – you feel everything going over you after you halt.”
After her ride on Showtime, Schneider commented, “I have (had) this horse since he was 3, and at the beginning of this year he turned a corner and he said, ‘I am here!’ The feeling you get with him is amazing outside in the warm-up, and then when you come into the arena he says, ‘I want to do this with you,’ and he goes in a light way.”
Great Britain also posted a positive opening day effort, with Fiona Bigwood’s 77.157 percent on Orthilia a true highlight. The team’s pathfinder, Spencer Wilton, earned a 72.686 percent with Super Nova II to ensure another strong score in the bank for his country, which sits in second overall.
“I just love that horse,” Bigwood said. “I was very emotional after. You just feel you’re riding with a friend. I’ve had many horses over the years, and to get a real friend like that is something special.”
The Netherlands was expected to be high in the rankings as well, but the team has been dealt a more challenging set of cards after Adelinde Cornelissen, individual silver medalist at the 2012 Olympic Games, retired the 19-year-old Parzival midway through the test. Cornelissen explained that the horse felt under the weather after an insect bite.
“Yesterday morning I came to the stable and his cheek was completely swollen,” she said. “It appeared that he was bitten by a spider or mosquito. His body was full of toxic fever over 40. We managed to get that down yesterday; he was nine hours on liquids. Then yesterday evening he was all good – his temperature was down again, and this morning also. I discussed with the team vet and he said, ‘OK, we’ll give it a try for the team result.’ But then he felt totally empty and I didn’t want to push him through this.”
Her teammate Edward Gal went on to ride Voice to the fourth highest score of the day. He commented that he was “quite satisfied” with the horse’s efforts despite a few bobbles, noting that Voice has come a long way since the World Equestrian Games two years ago and is having more fun in the ring. Gal added that Cornelissen was very disappointed at having to retire.
“We tried to comfort her a little bit, as much as we can,” Gal said. “But I think for her it’s really, really sad. She wanted this to be the last competition with him. It’s really sad for her that it ends like this.”
With Gal’s score, and two excellent horse/athlete combinations still to come Thursday, the Netherlands is still very much in the medal mix but cannot afford major mistakes without the luxury of a drop score.
Calculating team rankings with the assumption that one score earned today would be a drop score, the Netherlands would be third, followed by the U.S., Sweden and Denmark. But factoring in two scores for each team takes the Netherlands temporarily out of the picture, meaning the U.S. sits in third, followed by Sweden, Denmark and Spain.
U.S. team riders step up to the plate
The U.S. team effort featured two athletes making their international championship debuts, and both delivered good performances that will position the team well for the days to come. Allison Brock and Rosevelt showed great harmony and expression as they rode to a score of 72.686 percent, putting them on equal footing with Great Britain’s Wilton in a tie for seventh overall. They had a mistake at the end of the two-tempis, which Brock blamed herself for, but otherwise produced a very steady test.
“He felt great coming in and cantered in and halted super,” Brock said. “That first trot extension felt amazing. He was trying really hard. I have to give him a lot of credit. It’s his first Olympic Games and my first Olympic Games, and it’s a lot to be here. But he handled everything quite well.”
She pointed out that the path to the Grand Prix was not easy with Rosevelt, but she and owners Fritz and Claudine Kundrun are happy they persevered.
“He just needed time,” she explained. “The one thing this horse has taught me is that you can’t say, ‘Oh, they’re going to learn it by this time.’ You don’t really know. Every horse is different. They’re all individuals. I had so many people come up to me and say, ‘I can’t believe he’s a Grand Prix horse.’ And look at him now – he’s at the Olympics!”
In the afternoon session, the United States’ Kasey Perry-Glass and Dublet earned a mark of 75.229 percent for a confident ride displaying the horse’s highlights in piaffe and passage. They sit in fifth place overall. Perry-Glass noted the sound of guns going off throughout the day posed a challenge for Dublet, but was happy with how he kept his concentration.
“I was really proud of Dublet,” she said. “He hung in there really well for me, especially with all the guns and everything going off. He’s a very sound sensitive horse, so to be able to keep him focused and together was a challenge for both of us. But he was there and he was ready to go.”
Dublet is only in his first year competing at the international Grand Prix level and has taken to the challenge with ease. Perry-Glass said U.S. Chef d’Equipe Robert Dover and her own coach Debbie McDonald told her to enjoy the moment during her ride.
“We’ve been working all year for this – the last four years for this,” she said. “So when you’re here, you have to have fun, and work really hard for your team.”
The Grand Prix concludes Thursday, with the final two riders for each team heading down centerline. Team medals will be decided based on results from both the Grand Prix and the Grand Special, which is open to the top six teams from the Grand Prix as well as eight additional individuals.
Team Standings After Day One of the Grand Prix
Note: These standings factor in both scores earned by each team to date. Therefore, the Netherlands, with just one score on the board, is temporarily ranked last but should move up considerably once their third and fourth riders compete. As mentioned above, if teams are instead ranked with the assumption that one of the scores earned to date will eventually be the drop score, the Netherlands would be third, followed by the U.S., Sweden, and Denmark.
1. Germany: 158.315
Sönke Rothenberger/Cosmo 59/77.329
Dorothee Schneider/Showtime FRH/80.986
2. Great Britain: 149.843
Spencer Wilton/Super Nova II/72.686
3. United States: 147.915
4. Sweden: 146.714
Mads Hendeliowitz/Jimmie Choo SEQ/71.771
Juliette Ramel/Buriel K.H./74.943
5. Denmark: 142.129
Anders Dahl/Selten HW/69.900
Agnete Kirk Thinggaard/Jojo AZ/72.229
6. Spain: 140.643
Claudio Castilla Ruiz/Alcaide/69.814
Jose Daniel Martin Dockx/Grandioso/70.829
7. Japan: 135.186
8. Australia: 134.986
Mary Hanna/AUS/Boogie Woogie 6/69.643
9. France: 134.328
Ludovic Henry/After You/69.214
10. Brazil: 133.414
Pedro Tavares de Almeida/Xaparro do Vouga/65.714
Giovana Prado Pass/Zyngaro de Lyw/67.700
11. Netherlands: 75.271
Individual Standings After Day One of the Grand Prix
1. Dorothee Schneider/GER/Showtime FRH/80.986
2. Sönke Rothenberger/GER/Cosmo 59/77.329
3. Fiona Bigwood/GBR/Orthilia/77.157
4. Edward Gal/NED/Voice/75.271
5. Kasey Perry-Glass/USA/Dublet/75.229
6. Juliette Ramel/SWE/Buriel K.H./74.943
T7. Allison Brock/USA/Rosevelt/72.686
T7. Spencer Wilton/GBR/Super Nova II/72.686
9. Agnete Kirk Thinggaard/DEN/Jojo AZ/72.229
10. Mads Hendeliowitz/SWE/Jimmie Choo SEQ/71.771
11. Megan Lane/CAN/Caravella/71.286
12. Jose Daniel Martin Dockx/ESP/Grandioso/70.829
13. Anders Dahl/DEN/Selten HW/69.900
14. Claudio Castilla Ruiz/ESP/Alcaide/69.814
15. Mary Hanna/AUS/Boogie Woogie 6/69.643
16. Ludovic Henry/FRA/After You/69.214
17. Dongseon Kim/KOR/Bukowski/68.657
18. Julie Brougham/NZL/Vom Feinsten/68.543
19. Kiichi Harada/JPN/Egistar/68.286
20. Giovana Prado Pass/BRA/Zyngaro de Lyw/67.700
21. Akane Kuroki/JPN/Toots/66.900
22. Bernadette Pujals/MEX/Rolex/66.757
23. Valentina Truppa/ITA/Chablis/65.971
24. Pedro Tavares de Almeida/BRA/Xaparro do Vouga/65.714
25. Suzanne Hearn/AUS/Remmington/65.343
26. Stéphanie Brieussel/FRA/Amorak/65.114
27. Tanya Seymour/RSA/Ramoneur 6/63.929
28. Christian Zimmermann/PLE/Aramis 606/63.271
29. Yvonne Losos de Muñiz/DOM/Foco Loco W/61.300
ret. Adelinde Cornelissen/NED/Parzival
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