Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro Win Their Second Consecutive Individual Olympic Gold

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“[Valegro] might be the best horse in the world,” said commentator John Kyle, “But he also has the best rider in the world on his back.”

Today, the judges agreed.

Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin came into today’s final round of Olympic dressage competition as the holder of the world record score in freestyle dressage: a 94.3% earned at London’s Olympia Horse Show. She wouldn’t quite top that today, but with an even 90% technical score and an astonishing 97.857% artistic, she and her “Blueberry” finished with a 93.928%.

Dujardin finished her freestyle—a routine set to music inspired by the city of Rio de Janeiro—with tears in her eyes. There’s a good chance that this Olympics is Valegro’s swan song; he has nothing left to prove in the world of competitive dressage and Dujardin has talked about retiring the 14-year-old gelding while he’s still on top.

The score put Dujardin a comfortable six points ahead of her closest competitor, Kristina Broring-Sprehe, but the biggest potential for an upset was yet to go. Isabell Werth of Germany closed out the day with her freestyle on Weihegold OLD. Werth didn’t leave much room for criticism with her pretty black mare, having only a few small errors in the piaffe/passage transitions. With an 85.286% technical and 92.857% artistic, Werth’s 89.071% was good enough to move her ahead of teammate Broring-Sprehe, though still a few points shy of Dujardin. But Werth set a record of her own today, winning her 10th medal, making her the most decorated Olympic equestrian in history.

A Strong Showing, but No Medal for the U.S.

Steffen Peters and Legolas 92 were first on the order of go this morning. Although riding to music with lyrics is a somewhat divisive issue, it is allowed, and Peters took advantage, entering the ring to the words, “Hey, I’m Legolas. Let’s go.” The routine included songs by Coldplay, Queen’s “Under Pressure” and the rhythmically almost-identical “Ice, Ice, Baby.” (Yes, really). The pair turned in a nice ride that included a pretty passage half-pass that Legolas executed precisely on the beat.

They won’t get bonus points for lyrical cheekiness, but for a sport with a reputation for being a bit stodgy, riding to modified Vanilla Ice lyrics is pretty solid proof that dressage riders don’t take themselves so seriously after all:

Now that the party is jumping
With the bass kicked in and the music thumping
Piaffe, light and nimble
I go crazy when I hear a cymbal and a hi-hat
That’s played to dressage.
I’m on a roll and it’s time to passage.

Peters and Steffen started the day on a high note with a 79.393%, a solid score that would keep them in the lead through the first group of the morning and 12th at the end of the day.

Allison Brock and Rosevelt also had their turn early in the day, just third to go. They received a 74.464% technical score and a 77.857% artistic for a total of 76.160%. Brock only just qualified for the freestyle, having squeaked in because of a rule that prevented the powerhouse German team from sending all four of their riders into the final round, even though they had all qualified based on scores alone. But Brock and Rosie proved that they belonged with their solid test, which put them 15th out of this group of the top 18 riders at this Olympics.

Laura Graves and Verdades, known to his friends as “Diddy,” were the second to last pair to ride today. Diddy is a big, leggy horse, bright bay in color with four white socks that accentuate his big movement. That flashiness is a double-edged sword; good movements are highly visible, but so are mistakes. Fortunately, Graves rides her tough horse to stand out in a good way, stringing together tough elements like two-tempis on a curve and double pirouettes. With an 81.964% technical and 88.429% artistic, an 85.196% total was just two points shy of podium position. Still, fourth place is a pretty exciting finish an Olympic debut.

Today’s freestyle concludes dressage for these Olympic games. Equestrian competition from Rio continues tomorrow with Team Show Jumping at 9:00 a.m. ET on the NBCOlympics live stream. It’s also scheduled to air as part of NBC’s network coverage from 12:30-1:00 p.m.

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