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Dujardin wins a record sixth Olympic medal
At the end of an evening of mounting drama in the equestrian arena, Charlotte Dujardin found herself fighting back the tears as she was crowned the most decorated British female Olympian of all time. Her bronze in the individual dressage is the sixth medal of her bullion-lined career, putting her on top of the British podium, ahead of the rower Dame Katherine Grainger and the roaring twenties tennis player Kathleen McKane Godfree.
“It’s so surreal. I can’t quite believe it,” she said, clutching her sixth medal with such enthusiasm it might have been her first. “To find myself level with Katherine Grainger yesterday [after the team event] even I was a bit speechless. Now I’ve beaten her, I’m so proud of myself.”
Reflecting on the odds stacked against her, Dujardin admitted that she hadn’t thought she stood much of a chance on Gio, a young horse of just ten years, which in dressage terms is an absolute beginner. “I can honestly say it might not be a gold medal for everyone that sees it but for me it’s a gold medal. A horse that has as little experience as he does but he goes in there and he tries and he makes you so proud. I feel so emotional. Honestly he has no idea what he’s doing. He’s phenomenal, wow.”
Gio, who Dujardin adoringly refers to as “Pumpkin”, is a chestnut gelding who came in as a last-minute replacement for her preferred horse, Mount St John. After the final she revealed just how much of an outside chance they had. “I just kept thinking, ‘I’m going to go wrong’. This floorplan was literally done just before we left, the music was being put together and finished whilst we were out here [in Tokyo]. Pumpkin’s only done one freestyle in his life so he has no experience at all… so tonight was the first time I rode the whole combination of music and floorplan.”
Eyes shining with tears, she told the BBC, “I cried, and I never cry. I got really emotional because it means so much and I’m just so, so proud.”
Her nerves to clinch the bronze medal were certainly put through the wringer. For a sport as civilised as dressage, the manner in which final positions are calculated can induce panic attacks in even the most sturdy.
Dujardin was obliged to stand at the side of the arena after her routine watching the final rider Dorothee Schneider of Germany, who was aiming to join her compatriots Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and Isabell Wurth on the podium. It was, the 36-year-old reckoned, three minutes of exquisite torture.
“A killer,” she said afterwards. “All these combinations that I followed were very, very experienced horses that had been doing it years and years. Did I really think I was going to beat [Schneider]? Not really. But I went in and gave it my best shot. Thank god I got the medal. To break those Germans up, it feels even better,” she laughed, referring to what might have been an all-German 1-2-3 had Schneider performed better.
Dujardin was right to be nervous. As they proved in the team event, the Germans are supreme at dressage. The order of performances in the final was determined by qualifying scores so the better riders came out towards the end. Until then the few in the stadium, and those at home trying to negotiate their way from the BBC to Eurosport and back, had to sit through the also-rans.
The music the outsiders chose varied from La Donna e Mobile, through a medley from Les Miserables to an easy listening mash up of Pink Floyd. Prog rock, however, didn’t seem to inspire horse and rider too much in the way of big points; Rodrigo Torres of Portugal aboard Fogoso finished bottom of the pile, less Another Brick In The Wall as Who Put The Dogs Out.
The first Brit up was the veteran Carl Hester. Grinning cheerfully, he was controlled, smart and organised as ever. His neatly delivered routine put him at the top of the leaderboard after the first section of riders. Sadly, his turn in the medal positions was not to last long.
Charlotte Fry on Everdale was next for Great Britain. The 25-year-old Olympic debutant made a couple of mistakes in her first individual final, her horse a little eager in places, raising onto its hind legs at one point and all to the tune of Rihanna’s Umbrella, which was timely given that as she finished the rain was beginning to fall.
It was after the second break that the big guns arrived like the brilliant German rider Jessica von Bredow-Werndl on TSF Dalera, who did incredible things to a soundtrack from the movie La La Land, her horse gently bouncing across the sand in the most genteel and refined pogo (that might not be the technical term).
She put herself unassailably at the top of the pile. Isabell Wurth, also from the German team, is hugely experienced – the 52 year old won the individual gold medal in Atlanta, 25 years and seven Games ago. As in the team event, Wurth chose Beethoven as her backing track and she was flawless, everything she tried executed to perfection, putting herself into the silver position.
Isabell Werth was the next of the Germans. To say she has been around the block is wholly to understate the 52-year-old’s achievement. She won the individual gold medal in Atlanta, 25 years and seven Games ago. As she had in the team event, she chose Beethoven as her backing track and she was flawless, everything she tried executed to perfection, putting herself into the silver position.
So when Dujardin arrived into the arena, she knew she was going to have to be almost as good as she had been in Rio, when she delivered a staggering 93 per cent. In dressage terms that is close to perfection, the equivalent of the perfect hat trick, or the century at Lord’s before lunch.
Her ability to communicate through a touch of her heel or a pull on the rein is unsurpassed and she looked to be working brilliantly once more with her young, inexperienced horse. She grinned when she finished, and gave Gio a friendly, congratulatory smacking round the ears.
As the judges made their calculations, it turned out she had scored 88.543. It left her in the bronze medal position, anxiously waiting to see what the third German could muster. This is an unexpected edge of cruelty to a sport of such elegance: it requires a lot of standing around watching as you slip off the podium. But this time, Dujardin stayed there, Schneider failing to better her.
Now she can begin to think of Paris. And the rider from Enfield, North London, reckons the future is bright for her and Gio, with a host of prospective medals to add to her record-breaking collection.
“He’s 10 years old and look what he’s done. He’s going to be a superstar. When you’ve had a horse like Valegro it’s very difficult to find another to follow him, but in my head I know I can do it again.
“Bring it on,” she said. “I cannot wait.”
Individual dressage as it happened
Gives a lie to that Piers Morgan bilge
About winning being the only thing that matters and why he wouldn't treasure a gold and silver medal (in his dreams). Same tedious dreck every four years.
— Team GB (@TeamGB) July 28, 2021
The medal ceremony begins
Dujardin receives her second bronze medal of the Games along with her bouquet.
Silver for Isabell Werth, a 12th medal, seven gold and five silvers since 1992.
Gold for Jess von Bredow-Werndl after leading at every stage of the week in team and individual competition.
Apologies to Carl Hester and Lottie Fry
For not saying earlier that they finished in eighth and 13th respectively.
Dujardin becomes Britain's greatest woman Olympian
Winning her sixth medal, an individual bronze on her new horse Gio, to go with two solo golds and a team gold, silver and bronze.
Von Bredow-Werndl GERMANY 91.732
Werth GERMANY 89.657
Dujardin GREAT BRITAIN 88.543
Bronze for Dujardin
Schneider is awarded 79.432.
The big error
Was a lack of precision with some leg up leg down business.
Schneider looks miffed.
Big error after 'flamboyant canter'. Door opens for Dujardin?
Good enough for a medal so far
From Dorothee Schneider, 'nothing not to like'.
Is that the theme from Spender?
'Suspense is unbearable,' says Lucinda.
And now it's Queen. Oh dear.
Soaring strings again. Then segueing into guitar noodling.
It's either a Dujardin bronze or a Germany sweep
As it stands before Dorothee Schneider starts:
Von Bredow-Werndl 91.732
Dujardin in third
With 88.543 (83 dead technical, 94.086 artistic).
One rider to come.
Dujardin is thrilled with Gio's performance
She smiles broadly but the commentators think she didn't nail it.
Dujardin is riding 'very bravely'
'Hints of the Westminster carillion'.
I can only report here, I'm afraid. They could be speaking Swiss German for all I know.
'Going for it in canter.'
Lucinda keeps referring to horses as 'little'. Does she mean young?
More pan pipes
Interspersed with some form of drumming, more Celtic than Afrobeat.
Kate Winslet is about to commit the manslaughter of Leonardo Di Caprio. Oh come on. She could have held on longer.
Handsome beast and he seems to be starting very well to something that sounds like a dowdy pan pipe version of the theme from High Chapperal.
No, Werth into second
With 89.657 (83.429 technical, 95.886 artistic).
Dujardin in next. Looks like it could be a Germany sweep given the inexperience of Gio.
Passage in pirouette
Blows the commentators away. Could she be Olympic individual champion again 25 years on from her first?
Beethoven all the way
For Werth. Ode to Joy the centrepiece. And she has been flawless so far.
Enter the world No1
Isabell Werth on Bella Rose 2. Two riders after her, Dujardin and Schneider.
Edward Gal and Total US
Are awarded 84.157 overall, up to fourth.
Apparently this hoss is still so young and he will be a genuine contender in Paris in 36 months.
Jim on the aural assault
Jim White reports
You know that app which can tell you the title of a piece of music you are listening to? I bet that would struggle here to identify anything, given the uniform manner in which every piece of music played here for the horses has been mangled into an easy listening mush. If you need music like this to make horses dance, does that imply they are all stabled in lifts?
Too early on the pirouette
By all accounts. Anticipated it and went too soon.
On the soundtrack, the bell tolls and Dumbledore's Army is about to triumph against overwhelming odds.
Oh now it's the Love Story theme
Poor Ryan Neal.
Four to go
Following Jess von Bredow-Werndl's personal best, starting with the prancing Dutchman Edward Gal. Will it be Andre Rieu accompanying him? Sadly not. More film theme generic, Hobbits Assemble, or some such.
Looks like an unassailable lead
For Jess von Bredow-Werndl - 91.732 overall (85.9 technical, 97.6 (!) for artistic).
That means Carl Hester is down to fifth now.
'It doesn't come a heck of a lot better than that.'
TSF Dalera shows no signs of fatigue
From yesterday. The poise and precision halfway through suggest it's going to be a soaring score for Jess VBW.
She performs/struts/dances to bits and bobs from La La Land.
I think I've seen one musical. Oliver in 1979.
Jess von Bredow-Werndl
The world No2 and highest qualifier enters the arena, stops at the bell and waits to start on TSF Dalera.
Dufour takes the lead
"So correct, so much power and energy, they deserve good marks for their harmony," says Lucinda Green.
She storms into the lead with 87.507, the first tech score above 80 (81.93) and 93.09 for artistic.
Nails the piaffe
At the end and punches the air. Technically the best round so far, you'd say.
Is riding Bohemian and performing to a medley that has I Dreamed a Dream at its heart. Perhaps it's all from Les Mis. I dunno. Having worked opposite the Palace Theatre for almost the entirety of Les Miserables' run there, I'm afraid I didn't cross the road (well apart from trips to the Spice of Life).
Cathrine nor Catherine, apologies
And we are informed that she is engaged to be married to the daughter of the former Rangers winger Brain Laudrup, Rasmine Laudrup.
Now for the top six qualifiers
But not in qualification order, they were drawn at random, hopefully from a top hat. Catherine Dufour starts for Denmark.
Not the greatest selection of Charlotte Fry pics I'm afraid
Here is the pick of the bunch, all seemingly taken from the next county.
Top three with six to come
Sabine Schut-Kery USA 84.300
Carina Kruth DEN 83.329
Carl Hester GBR 81.818
They will resume at noon with Catherine Dufour (DEN), Jessica van Bredow-Werndl (GER), Edward Gal (NED), Isabell Werth (GER), Charlotte Dujardin (GBR) and Dorothee Schneider (GER) in that order (each starting at 10 minute intervals).
Marks for Lottie Fry
Are 80.614, made up of 75.71 on technical and 85.51 on artistic.
As we head into the final break, Charlotte is in eighth.
Why does everything sound as if ...
The main melody is being played through a melodica.
Great finish to Rihannna and Umbrella by Lottie Fry on Olympic debut.
Ah, it's all gone a bit pear
Everdale rose on to his hind legs in one corner, ''not a machine, these are flesh and blood", says Lucinda Green. She'll struggle on the technical now.
Sounds like Stevie Winwood
And Higher Love. Excellent extended trot.
Ramel leapfrogs her team-mate
Into fourth (of 11) with an overall of 81.182.
GB's second rider and the last of the second of three sections, Lottie Fry and Everdale are about to start, Lottie is the daughter of the late Laura Fry, who rode for GB at Barcelona in 1992.
A trawl of the internet and social media
Does not enlighten on her choice of music. Think we could call it Clayderman plus library Scandinoir incidental, climaxing to where the bad guy is convicted.
Sweden x 2
Juliette Ramel enters the arena on Buriel KH. You may remember the horse for recovering from a traumatic and serious injury sustained four years ago.
Going to need some help with this music.
Sweden's tough week continues
They lost their leading rider when his horse, after the long journey, was unable to trot up and compete and now Therese Nilshagen scores 79.72, good enough only for seventh of 10 riders so far.
The current leader
Is Sabine Schut-Kery making her Olympic debut at the age of 52.
Sweden's Therese Nilshagen
Is next into the arena. My children tell me she is performing to The Greatest by Sia. And pretty much dazzling.
Kruth in at two with a bullet
Carina Kruth scores 83.329, 78.29 for technical, 88.37 for artistic which means Carl Hester is now in third.
Apparently. My toes were unmoved but whatever floats the Eurosport commentary team's boat which loves the big Bill Medley/Jennifer Warnes finale. Dirty Dancing naturally.
Why all the breaks?
Jim White in Tokyo
I'm just back from the first break to see Carl Hester has just been nudged off the lead. They do like a break at the dressage. One in the team event yesterday was nearly an hour long. Not clear why it is needed, as the horses only do one turn round the ring, whether before or after a break so it is not to give them opportunity to rest and recover. Maybe they need the time to attach the judges to an intravenous caffeine supply to keep them alert to what is happening.
A Hollywood big hair 80s mix
For the Denmark team, trained by Princess Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein.
Bit of Flashdance, Love Lifts Us Up, Fame, I Want to Dance with Somebody and assorted shuddering flashback-laden audio madeleines.
A better pic of Carl Hester
From someone in the same postcode:
Denmark's Carina Kruth is next on Heiline's Danciera.
Schut-Kery takes the lead
With 84.30 after a technical of 80.14 and an artistic of 88.46. She bumps Carl Hester down to second.
As for her choice of music
You'd say Prokofiev with a twist plus Enya pretending to be the Atlantic Ocean over the top.
Ah, no. It's from The Last Samurai. Of course it is. Hans Zimmer, natch.
Schut-Kery looks a class apart
So far, so relaxed, 'sitting back in an armchair, having a blast,' says Lucinda, I'm presuming, Green seeing as we weren't introduced.
Hester takes the lead, and stays after the first rider back following the interval fails to post a bigger score. Talking of intervals, they do like a break at the dressage. The longer the better. Can't think why...
— Jim White (@jimw1) July 28, 2021
Oranje but no boom
I think we'll just call that music Portentous Euro Orchestral Soup.
The Eurosport commentary team believe Minderhoud and Glock's Dream Boy may have been affected by the heat and tiredness from yesterday. No 'wow factor', they say.
They score 75.536 which puts him fourth of seventh riders.
Next up is Sabine Schut-Kery on Sanceo, silver medal winner yesterday.
With the Netherlands Hans Peter Minderhoud, resplendent in an oranje tailcoat. Top piaffe just now, trotting on the spot.
Can't identify the music so far.
Carl Hester takes the lead
But sadly the only photograph of him to land in the UK so far was taken in Yokohama
There are 12 riders (and horses) to come, in two sets of six.
During the break the tractor does circuits of the sand with the roller.
GB's first rider
The 'mestro' Carl Hester (as the Eurosport commentator calls him) moves into the lead at the interval with 81.818, 77.7 for technical,. 85.9 for artistic.
Big smile and well deserved on freestyle debut for En Vogue.
Has chosen some bouncy mid 80s pop, focusing on Phil Collins, I think, rendered by James Last. He started with the hard stuff first om En Vogue, made an error apparently zigging and/or zagging.
Disappointment for Spain
Beatriz Ferrer-Salat is only fourth after scoring 77.532, some problem with transitioning into pirouette which stood out like a sore thumb. Next up Carl Hester on En Vogue.
— Sarah Doran (@sarahisnothere) July 28, 2021
Up next ...
The fifth rider is Spain's Beatriz Ferrer-Salat. Bits of La Donna e Mobile and assorted other Verdi Three Tenors staples. Boo! More prog.
Rodrigo Torres finishes and breaks into tears
It's so hot it's like they've set the controls for the heart of the sun.
He scores 78.943, made up of a technical of 74.1 per cent and 83.7 artistic.
It's a Floyd medley
The cash registers segue into Another Brick in the Wall (Part II), part dressage part social commentary. To the barricades Senhor Torres!
Bold choice for Rodrigo Torres
It's the Floyd for him and Fogoso. Roger Waters will be delighted to have his anti-capitalist lament Money soundtracking this, no doubt.
Peters and bleeps
Jim White reports
The thing about dressage is the longevity of the riders. The 56 year old Steffen Peters of the USA, who is out now, is competing in his fifth Olympics. Mind, you'd have thought he had been around long enough to choose better music than this. Sounds like a Kraftwerk tribute act played backwards.
Lots of bleeps and honks for Peters who takes the lead with 80.968, scoring 85 and a bit for artistic merit and 76 and rubble on the technical.
The heat is on
Jim White reports
It's hot work out there. Nanna Merrald of Denmark needed a serious glug of water after completing her round. Her horse Zack, meanwhile, was off into the specially constructed cooling tent here, where he will be sprayed down with fine jets of cold water. By the end of this, I might be joining him.
The Eurosport Player kicks in
Just in time to watch Steffen Pieters from the United States on Suppenksper dancing to, of all things, Safety Dance by Men Without Hats.
Health and safety and assorted Keith Lards stand down , Mr Pieters is wearing a hat.
Which means we have only missed Nanna Skodborg Merrald on Zack, who racked up 80.893.
Suppenkasper is the don of the sideways walk, like Carlos Acosta doing Billy Connolly's mashed Glaswegian.
A hooley in Tokyo
Jim White reports
It's blowing a right gale here at the Equestrian Centre, the tail end of the scheduled typhoon. What difference that makes to the ability to pirouette and Piaff only time will tell. But the volunteers who dash out to clean up after any incontinent performers (the equine ones, obviously) are in danger of having the arena sand blow in their face. Still, makes the national flags along the back of the stands properly flutter
Canada went first
Brittany Fraser-Beaulieu, a late substitute for the US's Adrienne Lyle, started proceedings and scored 76.404.
For context bronze was won with a score of 87.142 in 2016, gold with Dujardin's frankly ridiculous*
* He says as if he's got the first clue 93.857.
Jim White, thankfully, is there to help us
Bizarre bonsai stone circles decorating the ring here at the Tokyo Equestrian Centre. Looks like there's been a rerun of This Is Spinal Tap and someone ordered the props in the wrong dimensions.
Stonehenge! Where the demons dwell
Where the banshees live and they do live well
Looks like we're going to have to settle for t'internet
At least for the first hour. Apologies to Mesdames et Messieurs Fraser-Beaulieu, Merrald, Peters, Torres, Ferrer-Salat and Hester and especially to All In, Zack, Suppenkasper, Fogoso, Mrs Boothroyd's Holiday Dancer, Elegance and En Vogue.
Fancy flogging the family silver to Discovery and having to hunt with increasing desperation up and down the channel guide for Strictly Come Equus. It seems they'll be showing it live from 10.30am on Eurosport 2, ie an hour after it starts but one can't be certain. They're focusing on some EA Sports game come to life at the moment, 3x3 basketball.
The frankly baffling commentary free Eurosport channels 3-9 make no mention of it on the episode guide. Just have to keep scrolling in this ill-lit garret until we alight on Brittany Fraser-Beaulieu trotting (?) out to commence proceedings.
More up to date timings
The competitors are split into three groups of six with a 15 minute interval between each group.
Carl Hester is due out at 10.20am, Charlotte Fry at 11.35am and Dujardin at 12.40pm.
Earlier today the United States Adrienne Lyle, a silver medallist yesterday, withdrew Salvino. They have been substituted by Canada's Brittany Fraser-Beaulieu on All In.
The competition begins at 9.30am BST
There are 18 riders in the final - Carl Hester is sixth, Sabine Schut-Kery, the only competitor to reach the heights of the German trio and whose round pipped Britain to silver, is eighth, Charlotte Fry is 12th, Werth 16th, Dujardin 17th and Dorothee Schneider last.
Good morning and welcome to coverage of the individual dressage at the Tokyo Olympics. Your usual guide, Alan Tyers, our Len Goodman of 'horsey disco' is, I'm afraid, unavoidably absent, possibly through his desire to kick back and enjoy one for once without the need to write about or be peerlessly witty about what is very much his alpha and omega, the world cup final of his writing. So you're stuck with me, a relic from the days of Dorian Williams, Raymond Brooks-Ward and Eddie Macken.
Today Charlotte Dujardin 'competes for a hat-trick of gold medals' - or at least that's the standard line. The disingenuous thing about that, though, is the absence of the horse on which she won at London and Rio, Valegro,who retired in 2016. Yesterday she won bronze in the team event on Gio, a relative novice compared with the horses ridden by her great German rivals, the world No1 Isabell Werth and the best performer on Tuesday, Jessica von Bredow-Wendl. However great Dujardin is, any kind of medal would be an enormous achievement here ... but watch out Paris, when Gio has another three years of experience.
Any kind of medal would make history as it would be Dujardin's sixth after three golds, a silver and two bronzes which would take her ahead of Dame Katherine Grainger as Great Britain's leading woman Olympian. It would also confirm her status as the greatest daughter or indeed son of Leighton Buzzard, surpassing the achievements of the Barron Knights as well as Kajagoogoo.
But she is not the only GB competitor - her team-mates Carl Hester, who competed at the 1992, 2004, 2012 and 2016 Games - goes on En Vogue and Charlotte Fry, whose first Games this is, competes on Everdale.
Our eyes, though, should also be on Werth, the individual champion at Atlanta 1996, to win again 25 years on to go with silvers at Barcelona, Sydney, Beijing, Rio and six team golds.