Germany’s Isabell Werth (45) and her lovely mare Weihegold waltzed their way to gold in the Grand Prix Special at the Longines FEI European Championships 2017 in Gothenburg, Sweden today. But the doyenne of world Dressage was chased to the line by compatriot, Sonke Rothenberger (22), who joined her on the top step of the team podium on Wednesday, while Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour (25) produced a brilliant performance to claim bronze.
This was Werth’s third FEI European Championships Grand Prix Special title, her first claimed with Gigolo when the Special was introduced at Donaueschingen (GER) in 1991 and the next three years later in Lipica (SLO). Team-mate Rothenberger joked afterwards that his age combined with Dufour’s matched Werth’s, but youth had to wait for its day once again today as the most medalled athlete in the history of international equestrian sport reigned supreme once more.
“Weihe is in the best form ever! It was a clear test without mistakes and with a lot of precision, so I’m completely happy! For me the challenge was to take enough risk but not too much because I knew the rest behind me want to make me angry!!” Isabell Werth GER
Weihe translates from German as “ordains”, and so far this week that is exactly what the super mare and her extraordinary rider have done, dictating the destination of team gold with the only over-80% score two days ago and putting the biggest mark of 82.613 on the board this evening. But Rothenberger took silver with 82.479 and looks a serious future threat. “I watch the best riders and I steal with my eyes!” he said earlier in the week. It looks like it won’t be long before he’ll be stealing their limelight too. He’s confident and ambitious, and rightly so.
“I know my horse (Cosmo) can do it, and I never doubted from the first day I sat on him that he could beat anybody if things work out the way I would want, but it’s always a different story to bring it on the day, which is what Isabell is so good at….doing it on the day, on the spot when you need it and that’s what we try to work on, and that’s what we train for every day. We are getting closer and closer, but we are not quite there yet!” Sonke Rothenberger GER
Dufour meanwhile is also in sparkling form with the 14-year-old Atterupgaards Cassidy who has been with her through “a journey from Juniors seven years ago”. Posting 79.762 she pinned Sweden’s Therese Nilshagen (34) into fourth with the stallion Dante Weltino, who like Rothenberger’s Cosmo is an exceptional talent at just 10 years old, and who earned a mark of 78.585 for an exquisitely elegant test.
The big question now is whether the Werth and Weihegold, team gold and individual silver medallists at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, can make it a hat-trick of 2017 European titles by topping tomorrow’s Freestyle in which today’s top-15 have earned a place.
Facts and Figures
30 horse-and-rider combinations competed in the Grand Prix Special.
Maximum of three riders from each nation could qualify for tomorrow afternoon’s Freestyle in which 15 horse-and-rider combinations will compete.
The Ground Jury members for today’s competition were: At K, Isobel Wessels (GBR); At E, Anne Gribbons (USA); At H, Annette Fransen Iacobaeus (SWE); At C, Francis Verbeek van Rooy (NED); At M, Hans Christian Mattiesen (DEN); At B, Susie Hovenaars (AUS); At F, Evi Eisenhardt (GER).
British riders Carl Hester (Nip Tuck) and Spencer Wilton (Super Nova ll) finished fifth and sixth today on scores of 76.723 and 76.078 respectively.
Spencer Wilton GBR (6th): “He (Super Nova) was a very good boy! Except for the mistake on the centerline he felt much more confident today. I’m pleased with the score and hopefully we make it to Sunday, even though he hasn’t done so many tests to music.”
Sonke Rothenberger GER (silver): “We can’t think of a life without horses! I always thought when you have a jumping horse and you jump a 1.60m obstacle you get goosebumps and the feeling of being on a roller-coaster that you can’t have that on a dressage horse – until I sat on Cosmo, and then I realised he gives me that feeling as well!”
Francis Verbeek van Rooy (NED) Judge at C: “It’s very exciting, the other two (Rothenberger and Dufour) are so young and they are the future of our sport – there are now so many young people on top level world-wide.”