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Friday, August 3, 2012

Team USA Dressage Will Advance to the Grand Prix Special

Ravel's passage earned some of the highest marks for Steffen Peters and the US dressage team. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.
Steffen Peters' overall average Grand Prix score of 77.705 percent aboard Ravel boosted the American team's Grand Prix average to 72.801 percent, good enough for fifth place in the team standings.

The top seven teams advance to the Olympic Grand Prix Special; so Team USA will go forward to vie for an Olympic team dressage medal on Tuesday, August 7.

In the supple, relaxed, expressive style that we've come to expect from Ravel, the fourteen-year-old KWPN gelding (by Contango) put in an excellent Grand Prix test that earned raves from Peters.

"I am so excited. Ravel felt as supple as he has ever done. There were so many highlights that I can't wait for the next three days. I looked at Carl Hester's test [aboard Uthopia yesterday] and thought I might be similar, so my score is a thrill," Peters said afterward.

Peters was right: His 77.705 is just 0.15 percent behind Hester's 77.720. Hester currently lies in fifth place individually, and Peters lies sixth.

Leading the pack and helping to propel Great Britain to the top spot in the team standings is Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro, a ten-year-old KWPN gelding by Negro. Their score of 83.663 percent topped that of the Netherlands' Adelinde Cornelissen and the 1997 KWPN gelding Parzival (Jazz), who are second in the individual standings with 81.687 percent. Helen Langehanenberg and the 1999 Westfalen stallion Damon Hill (Donnerhall) of Germany are ranked third with 81.140 percent, and German teammate Kristina Sprehe on the 2000 Hanoverian stallion Desperados (De Niro) stand fourth with 79.119.
A "10" extended trot: Great Britain's Valegro and Charlotte Dujardin. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

The seven-judge panel (Gary Rockwell of the USA at C, Leif Tornblad of Denmark at H, Stephen Clarke of Great Britain at M, Maribel Alonso of Mexico at B, Evi Eisenhardt of Germany at F, Wim Ernes of the Netherlands at K, and Jean-Michel Roudier of France at E) awarded Dujardin and Valegro particularly high marks for their extended trot and their two-tempi changes. The two-tempis earned four scores of 10, and their second extended trot earned three 10s. In the collective marks, Dujardin received two 10s for "rider's position and seat; correctness and effect of the aids."

Dujardin called Valegro's score, which set a new Olympic Grand Prix record, "unbelievable. I wanted to come here and have fun. I wanted to go out and show what this horse can do. It is a once-in-a lifetime-opportunity."

As the judges saw it, Parzival's highlights were his piaffe (one 10) and his passage and piaffe-passage transitions (several scores of 9.5). Cornelissen received one 10 for the "rider" collective mark.

There were no marks of 10 for Peters and Ravel. Ravel got some 9s for his extended canter, canter pirouettes, and passage; but he also earned across-the-board scores of 5 for movement 25, the flying change at X between the two pirouettes, which appeared to be late behind.

The first to go today, the USA's Tina Konyot on her Danish Warmblood stallion Calecto V (by Come Back II), put in a solid and fluent test with a few minor bobbles to score 70.456 percent. They are currently twenty-seventh individually.
Tina Konyot embraces Calecto V after their Grand Prix test. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.
"I missed a couple of my extensions in there, but overall I was very happy with my test," Konyot said. "It's just a great feeling to be here."

Despite the fact that the audience wasn't yet quite settled by the time Konyot entered the arena, the rider claimed it wasn't a distraction.

"I'm in my own zone," she said. "Someone could streak across the arena and I wouldn't notice them--well, it depends on who it is," she added.

US individual competitor Adrienne Lyle kept the occasionally explosive Wizard mostly focused and relaxed to produce a promising test that earned a score of 69.468 percent, putting them thirty-fifth in the individual standings.
Adrienne Lyle and Wizard in a lovely canter pirouette. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.

"Wizard was very amped up and on the edge, so we were trying to hold it together so he didn't get too flustered," Lyle said afterward. "He had a few mistakes just due to tension [including a break to canter during an extended trot], but I was happy."

Lyle said the 1999 Oldenburg gelding (by Weltmeyer) was pretty excited just before the pair's entrance into the Olympic equestrian stadium.

"We weren't even able to walk into the ring," she said. "We were kind of doing whirlybirds."

Lyle is thoroughly enjoying her first Olympic experience. "It was very cool going down center line, for sure!" she said. 

US team pair Jan Ebeling and Rafalca, who competed yesterday, are in thirtieth place individually with their Grand Prix score of 70.243 percent.

Besides Great Britain, Germany, and the USA, the other teams that will advance to the Grand Prix Special (the team medal final) are the Netherlands (3), Denmark (4), Spain (6), and Sweden (7). 

It will be exciting to see what the competition ahead brings. The bar has already been set in the low 80s; and later scores, especially those in the Grand Prix Freestyle, typically rise significantly. I wouldn't be surprised if we see some scores of 90-plus in the days to come.

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