Olympic gold: Why Team GB deserves more kudos
Nicola Strong reflects on how our superb dressage team won gold and thinks the media should give our equestrians the kudos they deserve.
Yesterday our riders secured gold in the Olympic team dressage, making it three medals from three competitions at the games for Team GB in the equestrian sports. That’s quite a feat in anyone’s book!
Carl Hester, Laura Bechtolsheimer and Charlotte Dujardin all contributed superb performances to top the tables with an unbeatable overall score which averaged 79.979! The Germans were a respectable runner up with 78.216, while the Dutch team had to settle for Bronze.
This achievement was particularly momentous, given that we had never before won a medal in this discipline! The withdrawal of Totilas from the German team due to rider illness undoubtedly helped our cause, but it would have taken something beyond spectacular to topple the mighty Brits this time.
Charlotte and Valegro have been in top form, already breaking a world record in Germany this year with this horse scoring over 88%, and arguably these two would be the ones to beat. The protégé of Carl Hester, who himself has been a household name and legend for many years in the world of dressage, she has learned from the best, and at such a young age she promises to be a talent for Team GB in years to come. Laura Bechtolsheimer would not be just making up the numbers either; having previously won three silver medals at the World Equestrian Games in 2012.
Charlotte affectionately refers to Carl as ‘Grandad,’ and certainly with these two young lady riders on the team he would be the experienced older figure spearheading the Team GB campaign. He got things off to a super start when his ultra talented Uthopia produced an extended trot that made those watching gasp. He scored 80.54 which was an Olympic record, and would put him into the lead. Laura B and ‘Alf’ (Mistral Hojris) were next for Team GB; scoring 77.79 - a really strong performance that belied the horses 17 years.
Last to go was Charlotte; a test reflective of their ability would surely be enough to confirm the host nation as the overall winners. So no pressure or anything... thankfully Charlotte is a true sportswoman who thrives under pressure and on the big stage, so a stunning performance littered with 10s throughout was what she delivered, an end result of 83.29 – another new Olympic record! The Dutch still had one to go after Charlotte and could affect placings, but it would take a superhuman effort to topple Team GB, and it wasn’t to be.
The worthy victors were crowned; not only had Team GB won a medal at the Olympics for dressage, but it was a Gold one! Sadly I do feel that while they were recognised for the fact that they had added to our medal tally, they didn’t receive quite the fanfare our cyclists or other athletes have.
I waited up to watch the highlights and had to endure repeats of the same events being covered before they eventually came to the dressage. The video highlights were superb! Then they went back to the studio to discuss.... the topics of conversation included how it must be a logistical nightmare to travel horses - which is actually just the norm for top class competition horses such as these anyway, how the home team must have had an advantage having not travelled - they won because they are the best at what they do and broke records to get there, not because of home advantage, and finally that it was a great venue. No mention of the performance of horse and rider because they obviously didn’t know enough about the sport to comment one way or another, which I think is quite sad.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, today in the aftermath of the victory, two different newspapers printed pictures of the Dutch team receiving their medals in error, rather than our own team! What a travesty, how awful for our riders, and what a total lack of respect for them and their achievements.
I sincerely hope that we can reproduce some of the same form to medal again in the individual competition, and that this time they might just be giving the starring role they deserve. There has actually been some fantastic celebratory coverage out there, and I hope this continues; I can only imagine that our dressage stars have been pushed to the background because of this idea that it is a toffs’ sport that doesn’t appeal to the masses. The problem is, all the while it’s given inequitable coverage in the media that won’t change because it won’t be shared with the masses as something that we can all enjoy.
Here’s hoping our super Brit riders will put in more table topping performances in the individual competition on Thursday, and that next time round, with two medals, their faces (not the Dutch) will be plastered everywhere for all to see, everyone knows they have worked for it!
Horsemart reader and blogger Nicola Strong has been riding for 24 years and is an amateur rider taking her first steps into the world of British Eventing and British Showjumping, supported all the way by trainer and sponsor Sharon Kilminster. She has her own blog at www.headstrongequestrian.com.
FEI World Rankings: Bechtolsheimer in third spot
A double dose of help from the Dutch has come to the rescue of the CDI***** at Hickstead
Natalie Povey update
Scottish teenager punches and throws rocks at horse
Radio 1 DJ injured in horse riding accident
Punter wins £210,000 from 1p horse race bet