F1 were in town yesterday (and today) with all the associated razzmatazz and horse power. But the truly great horsepower was here at the FEI European Dressage Championships... and again many of the stars had Union flags on their Nuumed numnahs.
The grand prix special was a war of attrition with all the top combinations making mistakes but the quality of the work that surrounded those small mistakes was truly sublime. Who would have expected the eventual gold medallist to have a navigational embarrassment... a chav nav failure. Yup, Adelinde took the wrong course!
Perhaps what is shocking for me is how quickly we have moved from ‘aiming for the medal zone’ to a position within the ‘camp’ that we will win medals... a sort of quiet confidence. When I sat down with UK Sport last year to agree medal targets it was beyond my wildest dreams that we would win two individual medals in the Special and that a lady who had not competed in the Special before this year would end up sixth.
Carl Hester and Uthopia scored a PB of 81.682% to finish in silver medal position. Laura Bechtolsheimer and Mistral Hojris scored 79.256% to take bronze. Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro scored 76.548% for sixth. Emile Faurie and Elmegardens Marquis scored 68.557% to finish in 21st.
Again what is pleasing is that if the team medal had decided on the combination of the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special (as it will be in 2012) then GBR would still have won gold.
Today is dancing to music day; the Freestyle. Carl is being very secretive regarding his music but I detect a degree of excitement when Carl talks about the composition. But this is asking a lot of Uthopia – only a young horse and he has already performed beyond expectation in the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special. By next year he will be mentally and physically stronger and better able to cope with three competitions in a week.
Laura has had to fight for everything this week and will want to end on a high note. She has again proved her standing on the world stage.
Emile has a horse described by the commentators as “super talented but not always easy” – he came here to produce a result in the grand prix and did just that...
As for Charlotte Dujardin... rarely in sport do you see a young athlete arrive on the international scene with such an explosion of talent and success. Yesterday was only her eighth time she had ridden the GPS in competition. I am sure she will have ups and downs over the coming 12 months but I think I can best sum it up by saying...wow!
So, memories of Rotterdam? Extraordinary results that crank the pressure and expectation up for 2012. A very good dinner where one of culinary experts (self proclaimed) asked “so what is this cheese?” .... “Cheese of sheep’s droppings replied an immaculate waiter.
Sorry to report a divorce between farrier and vet.... the farrier left the vet working in the stables and returned to the hotel. We used our conflict resolution skills and they kissed and made up over dinner.
This has also been a ‘staff training exercise’. What do I mean by that? Well not only do the riders and horses have to prepare for 2012 but so do the staff that will be in London and supporting the Lottery funded World Class Programme. It is important that the staff experience the Championships and therefore we have a number of staff at Rotterdam and will do the same at Luhmühlen and Moorsele. This is all part of ensuring the Programme is truly ‘world class’.
I travel directly from Rotterdam to Luhmühlen for the Eventing Europeans, competition will be tough and there will be a number of nations focussed on securing Olympic qualification. Our riders will be under more pressure than normal... or they will be... when they discover I have given up a day on the grouse moor so I can watch them; that is the definition of dedication!
Rotterdam draws to a close... a landmark event in the history of dressage in Britain. We have seen the sport reach new heights (the number of horses scoring over 70% reached new levels).
To cap it all... we even have camels doing flying changes!
Not the dressage team:
Even the flowers are orange: