Germany Wins Dressage Team Gold at the 2016 Olympics in Rio

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As the top-ranked horse-and-rider team after the Grand Prix, Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro were the last pair to go today in the Grand Prix Special. However, they came in to a situation where almost anything could happen during their test and it wouldn’t move Great Britain out of its silver medal position in either direction. The Germans had given themselves a comfortable cushion in gold medal position and her GBR teammates had done well to secure silver.

Maybe Valegro knew this. He opened with an uncharacteristic mistake, taking his sweet time moving into the half-pass. Nevertheless, the very low scores they earned for that movement were quickly eclipsed by their usual 9s and 10s for other parts of the test. Still, their final score of 83.025 put them in an unfamiliar place: second place individually behind Germany’s Isabell Werth, who had ridden to an 83.711 with Weihegold OLD. Nevertheless, today’s competition culminated in team medals, and the team from Great Britain can’t be disappointed with their silver.

Germany is Golden Again

The German team was as strong this year as it ever has been, and that’s saying something given the country’s long history of dominance in the sport. Werth made history today with this team gold medal being her ninth Olympic medal–a record for the sport. But she didn’t get here on her own; this year’s gold-medal-winning German team has no real weaknesses.

Sonke Rothenberger and Cosmo, the lowest-ranked pair on the team, outdid the first-ranked riders from several of the other teams with a score of 76.261 and an individual ranking in 10th place.

Dorothee Schneider and Showtime FRH put some serious pressure on the competition, wowing the judges and earning 10s for their final piaffe and passage work, more than compensating for a sticky spot at the end of their canter pirouettes earlier in the ride. An 82.787 propelled them to the top at that time by a wide margin.

Kristina Broring-Sprehe and Desperados FRH turned in another fantastic ride and made it look easy. They scored just behind teammate Schneider with an 81.261.

Silver for Great Britain

Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro did their job in posting a high score, but the team result requires more than one superstar, and the British team is a deep one.

Spencer Wilton scored a 73.613 with Super Nova II, whose ears were so far forward throughout the test that they appeared parallel to the ground. But we’ll say he was “interested,” not “spooky,” as he held it together for a respectable 21st position individually at the end of the day. Fiona Bigwood and Orthilia had some mistakes in the second piaffe and low marks in the collected walk which carries a coefficient of two. However, Orthilia’s expressive gaits and an otherwise excellent test allowed them to finish with a score of 74.384.

Carl Hester, a highly decorated five-time Olympian and coach to the three younger members of his team, rode Nip Tuck to an improved result compared with yesterday’s tense ride. Other than a bobble in the last pirouette, it was a good ride that earned a good score of 76.485.

A Close Call for Bronze

The real close competition today was the one between the Dutch team and the Americans, who started the day with less than a point separating the two, and both in contention for the bronze.

Allison Brock and Rosevelt rode first for the U.S. and set the tone for a good day for the team. No big mistakes and marks consistently between 7 and 7.5 gave the pair a score of 73.824. Brock ended her ride with a big smile and pats for “Rosie”.

Kasey Perry-Glass and Dublet were next for the U.S. A break into the canter during an extended trot cost them some valuable points, but an otherwise solid test and some high marks in the tempis pulled their score back up to a 73.235%.

Steffen Peters and Legolas 92 came into the Special in sixth place. This is an experienced pair and they scored high marks in their piaffe and passage work, which helped make up for an early mistake in the first half-pass and a sticky walk-piaffe transition (the transition is scored separately from the piaffe itself.) They managed to finish strong for a 74.622%, good enough to qualify for the individual freestyle.

When Laura Graves and Verdades entered the ring, they were the final American pair. The three team riders from the Netherlands had already completed their tests and stood in third place, but only by a slight margin. With a good score, Graves and “Diddy” could bring the Americans on to the podium, but with errors, the medal hopes would be dashed.

No pressure.

Diddy is known for being hot and at times difficult, but he’s also known for responding beautifully to his longtime trainer/rider, and Graves channeled her horse’s energy to an exceptional test. Other than one break at the very end, the pair were foot perfect, breaking the elusive 80% mark with an 80.364%. That was good enough to lift the U.S. team to the podium.

In addition to competing for team medals, the top 18 riders from today’s Grand Prix Special also earn the right to compete in the individual Grand Prix Freestyle, up to three riders per country. Since all four of Germany’s riders were in the top 18, their fourth-ranked rider Sonke Rothenberger will not be able to compete. However, that does mean that Allison Brock, who finished 19th individually today, will move on to the Freestyle along with Steffen Peters and Laura Graves.

2016 Rio Olympics Equestrian Team Dressage Results

The freestyle takes place on Monday, August 15 beginning at 9:00 a.m. ET and will stream live on NBCOlympics.com. Part of the freestyle is scheduled to air live on the USA Network between 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., so set your DVR or start thinking about how you’re going to ask your boss for a day off.

There is no equestrian Olympic competition for tomorrow, August 13, but it will resume Sunday, August 14 with show jumping, and on Monday with the last day of dressage. Find out more about watching equestrian at the 2016 Rio Olympics here.

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