Olympic preview dressage: going for gold starts tomorrow
By Louise Parks for the FEI and Claartje van Andel dressagedirect
Germany's dominance of the historic team medal table is indisputable. The last time they didn’t win the gold medal was at home turf in München 1972. However there is a danger that the 11-time champions may be outshone by the Dutch this time around, while there are great medal expectations for the squad from the USA too. The Americans have had to be content with bronze on six occasions, including at the last four Games, but they got a taste of silver way back in 1948 in London - could they be ready to go for silver 60 years later?
Anky van Grunsvem aboard Salinero in Rotterdam Picture Claartje van Andel dressagedirect
The battle lines have been re-drawn and well-cemented between the two queens of dressage Van Grunsven and Werth in recent weeks, with the former giving a sparkling performance with Salinero on her home turf in Rotterdam and the latter shining with Satchmo before her wildly enthusiastic supporters in Aachen. The Dutch rider will be joined by her 2007 European Championship winning team-mates Hans Peter Minderhoud riding Exquis Nadine and Imke Schellekens-Bartels riding Hunter Douglas Sunrise as the team event begins on 13 August, and few doubt their strength. Minderhoud's mare may be relatively inexperienced at this level but proved herself well up to the task on that Championship debut and has continued to impress ever since, while Sunrise is one of those horses that every dressage rider would like to sit on. There's an eye-catching quality about her every movement. Her indidividual bronze medals at the Europeans have been well deserved.
Satchmo and Isabell Werth in Aachen Picture Arnd Bronkhorst
However Werth's team-mates are both already Olympic winners. It’s Nadine Capellmann who took team gold in Sydney in 2000 and Heike Kemmer who contributed to victory in Athens four years later. Capellmann this time rides Elvis who she steered to individual fourth and team silver at the 2007 Europeans while Kemmer partners the well-campaigned Bonaparte who took European gold at both Hickstead in 2003 and Hagen two years later. There is solidity about this side.
Steffen Peters partnering Ravel Picture Terri Miller
Of the Americans, Debbie McDonald and Steffen Peters both have Olympic credentials. The former is a bronze medalist in Athens and the latter likewise in Atlanta in 1996. Some of the pundits are forecasting a history-making team result for them. Peters' partnership with the former Edward Gal ride Ravel is much-talked about, and under the four-year stewardship of German trainer Klaus Balkenhol the standard of US performances has improved dramatically. On the Florida circuit over the winter there was a real buzz. A sense that American Dressage fortunes are on a rising tide could be felt and that a whole new era might have begun. Courtney King-Dye and Mythilus, who trained in Europe last autumn and who were impressive during the American trials in San Juan Capistrano in California, will join Peters with Ravel and McDonald with the much-loved Brentina to show whether this is truth or aspirational fiction....
Blazing a trail
Denmark's Princess Nathalie Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein and Andreas Helgstrand and Sweden's Jan Brink can be expected to make their presence felt, while Canada's Ashley Holzer has been blazing a trail on her side of the Atlantic this season. Riding Pop Art, Holzer swept all before her at West Palm Beach, Loxachatee and Wellington in Florida in the early part of the year and then they came out to follow through at Blainville in Canada in June. However next to Holland's double-bronze European medal winner Imke Schellekens-Bartels the lady tipped to present the biggest threat to the Van Grunsven/Werth stranglehold on those individual medals might be Finnish veteran Kyra Kyrklund. At 57 years of age the British-based trainer and rider has a lifetime of experience behind her and rides her consistent horse Max. This year alone the pair won the Kur at Wiesbaden and placed third behind Van Grunsven and Werth at the FEI World Cup TM Dressage Final in s'-Hertogenbosch. She will be ready to pounce should anyone else falter.
Finnish veteran Kyra Kyrklund and Max Picture Dirk Caremans
The decision to reduce the number of team members was made in an effort to facilitate broader participation at this Olympic Games and a total of 22 nations will be represented indeed, including Australia, Austria, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Spain, Finland, France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Sweden and the USA. which is the highest number of nations ever. From 1984 to 2004, 18 nations were represented in the Dressage competition. The lowest number – four – was recorded in 1932 in Los Angeles where many nations were unable to travel because of the 1930s economic crisis. This is not the first time that teams of three have taken part. The format was introduced for the Amsterdam Games in 1928, but it was for economic reasons, and the four-strong team formula was only re-introduced during the 1960's.
Unfortunately the most fascinating participant of all would have been Brazilian Rogerio Da Silva Clementino if his horse Nilo would have passed the vet check, which he didn’t. He would have been the first black participant in Olympic dressage and Brazil would have ahd a team for the first time in Olympic history.
After Spain took silver in Athens all those horses went into retirement and it was left to Jean Bemelmans to form a whole new team to qualify individually. That they succeeded in doing so is a victory in itself. Too bad now that the team experience is over now that Spanish individual bronze medal winner Beatriz Ferrer-Salat had to withdraw because of healthiness problems of her new horse Fabergé.
China will be taking part for the first time. So 29 year old Lina Liu and Piroschka, who competed on the European Sunshine Tour and at Hagen during the earlier part of the year, should attract a lot of attention from the national media. Sadly Hong Kong-born Aram Gregory failed to reach the Olympic qualifying target score but his wife, Jane, will be flying the family flag on the British team. Brazil is also making its Dressage debut with a full side that includes the remarkable 16 year old Luisa Almeida.
Cat and mouse
The stage is set for another classic clash of the two super-stars of international Dressage. And a rule-change for the team event guarantees edge-of-the-seat excitement in this discipline from the outset, as no single mistake made will be without a serious follow up for the team result.
The game of cat-and-mouse that Anky and Isabell constantly play at each tournament - as Van Grunsven tends to top the Kur and Werth the Grand Prix Special - will be a fascinating one to watch at these Olympic Games. The Dutch star will be hoping to secure a sensational back-to-back hat-trick of gold and take her team with her, but Werth has worn that medal around her neck once before when winning with Gigolo in Atlanta 12 years ago She is still hungry to do it again. Firstly however even these two giants of the sport must follow the Olympic formula by finishing in the top 25 at the end of the team competition in order to go through to the Grand Prix Special and then into the top-15 Freestyle which will decide the fate of the 2008 Olympic title. From both a team and individual perspective, Hong Kong promises a Dressage feast!
Find more at www.fei.org/olympics
Some dressagenews before the start
By Claartje van Andel dressagedirect
As reported by the Brazilian press release send, Lusitano horse Nilo VO, that was the first horse to qualify for Brazil for the Olympics with Brazilian rider Rogério Clementino, didn´t grab its chance on the second day to pass the vetcheck in the equestrian olympic complex Sha Tin, in Hong Kong. The Olympic judges had gracefully rewarded him with a second chance as he obviously showed lame, but also not very well presented.
In the stables the official vet had stated a chronical problem. Chairman of the judges Ghislain Fouarge didn't agree with the vision of the Brazilian vet that Nilo was sound to compete at all. "Of course it is sad. Therefore we rewarded the horse with no less than three chances. Although the horse was presented a bit better the next day, lameness due to a chronical problem should lead to the exclusion of the horse."
Judges Fouarge and Riexinger examining the dressage horses for the check
Picture Claartje van Andel dressagedirect
After the exclusion of Nilo, the draw for dressage was done. The team dressage Grand Prix will start tomorrow on wednesday 7.15 pm Hong Kong time. Eleven teams have left to make their entries. The Dutch have the honour to go first, the Americans to go last. The German team will be the tenth to enter. Find starting lists here
Dressage direct members release, give it a free try by mailing the word trial to mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org