They may have been thrown slightly off course a few times in recent years, but Team Germany showed that they most definitely have the bit between their teeth once again when following up their Rio 2016 Olympic team victory to claim their 23rd Dressage team title at the Longines FEI European Championships 2017 in Gothenburg, Sweden tonight.
“This is the latest press conference I’ve ever been at in my life, and the driest, so I hope we can go to the bar and have a little party! We really couldn’t expect at the beginning of the year that with two horses out of the team that went to Rio we really would dominate the Europeans here in the team competition. All of us are really happy!” Isabell Werth GER
Already in the lead after the first two team-members completed their Grand Prix tests yesterday, they inched ever-closer to that top step of the podium when third-line rider Sonke Rothenberger (22) took his turn with Cosmo this evening. This is a partnership that has matured splendidly, and such was the quality of their work that they were trending with a score over 80% early in their test, eventually posting 78.343 to become the new leaders despite a spooky moment and a mistake in the two-tempi changes.
Rothenberger’s score brought the German total to 227.915, so victory was already well within their grasp long before anchor rider Isabell Werth (45) came into the ring. Meantime a fierce battle was raging between neighbours Denmark and Sweden for silver and bronze, with that result finally sealed by a very special performance from Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour. Riding the 14-year-old Atterupgaards Cassidy which she has partnered since her Junior years, the 25-year-old sparkled for a score of 78.300 which put the result beyond doubt. Denmark had not been on a European medal podium since 2001 so there was plenty to celebrate along with team-mates Anna Kasprzak, Anna Zibrandtsen and Agnete Kirk Thinggaard. And for Sweden it was their fourth team bronze, and Rose Mathisen, Tinne Vilhelmson Silfven, Therese Nilshagen and Patrik Kittel were all riding horses that still have something to learn so Chef d’Equipe, Bo Jena, rightly admitted to feeling “really proud” of them.
Carl Hester (Nip Tuck) made a valiant effort to claw back a podium place for the beleaguered British who were always compromised once reduced to a three-member side, and his score of 74.900 placed him individually fifth but Team GB finished two percentage places behind the Swedish bronze medallists while the defending champions from The Netherlands lined up fifth.
Last to ride into the ring, it was only a matter of putting the icing on the German cake as Olympic silver medallists Isabell Werth and her fabulous mare Weihegold swaggered their way through a lovely test that demoted team-mate Rothenberger to runner-up spot in the individual rankings while Denmark’s Dufour finished third and Germany’s Helen Langehanenberg (35) and Dorothee Schneider (48) slotted into fourth and six spots respectively. The top 30 riders now go through to Friday’s Grand Prix Special.
Facts and Figures:
Isabell Werth has been a member of 9 gold medal winning teams in the 52-year history of the FEI European Dressage Championships.
Werth was a member of the German team that won bronze at the 2015 European Championships staged in Aachen, Germany.
Sweden previously claimed team bronze at the FEI European Championships in 1971, 1997 and 2007.
The individual Grand Prix Special begins at 11.45 local time on Friday.
With her former star ride, the stallion Damon Hill, Germany’s Helen Langehanenberg claimed silver in both the Grand Prix Special and the Freestyle at the FEI European Championships in Herning, Denmark in 2013.
Isabell Werth GER, talking about her mare Weihegold: “She’s in really great shape, always the question is can you bring it into the competition and it was really really fun to ride her this evening, it was really a pleasure and so easy. But we all know it was today, and the next day will come and I hope we can keep it up, but you never know. This will be the hardest thing, to keep her in great shape until the end of the week.”
Sonke Rothenberger GER: “I was really happy that my team-mates did such great results on the first day. Of course it was a pity for the mistakes I made in the gallop, but my horse was probably the best he’s ever been and the judges rewarded that and that’s always nice – that the results also reflect the feeling of the rider.”