Emotional end to the equestrian element of the Games sees records smashed | An Eventful Life

Emotional end to the equestrian element of the Games sees records smashed

Although I was privy to the ‘set list’ for today’s Kur at Greenwich Park, the concluding day of the Games, I chose not to read it, as I wanted to be surprised and (hopefully) moved.

The action moved very quickly today, with three sets of six riders made up of the top-scoring individuals from the GP Special. It was an exclusively European shortlist.

Today, there were equal percentage marks given for the technical components that had to be included, as well as the artistic side, which included rhythm, energy, elasticity, harmony between horse and rider, and of course musical interpretation.

Patrik Kittel (pictured above) from Sweden was an early favourite of mine as he used a Billy Idol medley that took me back to my surly youth. The Kur is surely the most subjective element of the equestrian sports – if the judges prefer Brahms to Billy, surely they will be less appreciative. In any case, they must have liked Patrik’s performance as he gained a healthy 78.732. “Scandic is a very special horse,” Patrik said afterwards, “and we both enjoyed the test today.”

Six horses in, and we had already heard two Phil Collins/Genesis medleys – Mr Collins was certainly raking in the royalties today! So it was nice to hear something more unusual from Tinne Silfven Vilhelmson, who rode Don Auriello for Sweden to an original Dutch composition. It had elements of The Who and struck a nice balance between contemporary music and old fashioned rock. Tinne’s pirouettes and extended work looked exemplary – the judges thought so, and she went into first with 79.286.

Steffen Peters for the USA rode a eagerly-anticipated test to the Avatar soundtrack, music that was atmospheric and moving, but Ravel looked a little unsettled and lacking in focus, and seemed to ‘come out’ of some movements; the horse may have been tired. A perhaps disappointing score of 77.428.

Anky VG with Salinero (below) rode her last Grand Prix test with this horse in what must have been an emotional state of mind. However, she went out on a high with a foot perfect and technically brilliant test that took her into the lead with 82 – absolutely sublime.

However, despite this masterclass I actually preferred Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz’s typically Spanish test (competing for Spain, in case you were in doubt!), with the grey Fuego. His music seemed slightly ‘out’ at one stage, but the test was typically expressive, all swishy crimped tails, and flamenco guitar music! If this doesn’t make you want to crack open the sangria, nothing will.

Kristina Sprehe for Germany with Desperados rode an imaginative floorplan to a medley of eighties, slow-paced electronica, including hits from Visage, Soft Cell and Tears for Fears – OK, maybe another nod to my misspent youth – but I liked it! This horse is really light and expressive – they paint such an exquisite picture together. She scored 81.375.

One of the most eagerly anticipated tests was from Helen Langehanenberg and Damon Hill, a former Five-Year-Old World Young Horse Champion by Donnerhall. This horse has impressed to date, and took Helen to a team silver in the dressage team placings. I’d love to tell you how her test went, but I am afraid I was in a few hundred-deep queue for water from the fountains at Greenwich! How frustrating – I do know she flew into the lead at the time with 84.303, however!

Next up was Laura Bechtolsheimer (above, photo by Kit Houghton/FEI) for Britain with Mistral Hojris, riding to a Lion King soundtrack medley. Never mind ‘just can’t wait to be king’ – Laura is a true dressage queen. Alf was clearly sweating as the temperature hit the high 20s, but performed a beautiful test that left Laura in tears as she finished. He looked so relaxed, not a tail swish in sight, and gained 84.339 points to take the lead – hers was the first test to make me well up with tears!

Next was Carl Hester with Uthopia (pictured below), at this stage not knowing Laura’s percentage. He rode to an orchestral score and looked, again, supremely relaxed – his pirouettes were very graceful and his changes effortless. (The Brits’ horses all look so submissive and cooperative). I was a bit of an emotional wreck by then, and Rule Brittania, Carl’s final musical piece, finished me off. With glassy eyes I could see his initial score of 84.339, which had pipped Laura at the post – and felt a little disappointed for Laura. With her horse aged 17, who knows what Alf’s competitive future holds – to go out with a medal would be marvellous! But then Carl’s score was revised to 82.857, a bronze position – those poor riders’ nerves must be frazzled.

Holland’s Adelinde Cornelissen and Parzival, below, were the penultimate riders, with the fast-paced Nutcracker Suite as their score. It was foot perfect and he looked so elastic as he pirouetted to the sugar plum fairy refrain, to provisionally score 84.303, behind Laura.

      Photo: Kit Houghton

The final rider was Charlotte Dujardin and it was a foregone conclusion that she would do well – never a good thing in competition, not that Charlotte seems fazed by pressure.

Charlotte’s music with Valegro was a blend of movie soundtracks including The Great Escape. Suddenly, as she entered the ring, Adelinde’s score was rectified to a massive 88.196. Adelinde was in first, Laura B was in second and Helen Langehanenberg in third. Could Charlotte pull it out of the bag?

      Charlotte and Valegro                                           Photo: Kit Houghton/FEI

With Big Ben’s chimes as she pirouetted, and Land of Hope and Glory to finish on, it summed up the national mood in Britain. Despite her last pirouettes looking disjointed, Charlotte scored a massive, world record-breaking 90.089. As she burst into tears as the score was posted, I did the same. I knew that scarf would come in handy.

So it was Charlotte in first, Adelinde in second and Laura in third place. With murmurings that Charlotte had scored excessively higher that Adelinde, head judge Stephen Clarke told reporters that the two riders were very close. "Adelinde’s test showed huge power and expression but for us there needed to be more self carriage and lightness – the horse crossed its jaw a little, for example. That took down the harmony mark a touch. Charlotte’s horse has more self carriage but maybe not so much power and expression.”

The medallists - (L-R) Adelinde, Charlotte and Laura.

What a wonderful end to a magnificent event. If it gets this emotional at every Games, thank goodness they’re only every four years!