Isabell Werth (45) secured her third Dressage gold medal of the week when topping today’s individual Freestyle at the Longines FEI European Championships 2017 in Gothenburg, Sweden. But she had to pull out all the stops to pin German team-mate Sonke Rothenberger (22) into silver medal position while, mirroring the result of yesterday’s Grand Prix Special, Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour (25) took bronze.
Multi-medalled Werth was under no illusions about the quality of the performance she needed to produce.
“We all pushed each other today. When I went in, both Weihe and me knew there was no little mini-mistake allowed, and that made it very exciting!” Isabell Werth GER
That’s because Rothenberger is on the rise, producing stunning rides from his 10-year-old gelding Cosmo all week, joining Werth to take team gold on Wednesday, and then chasing her home in yesterday’s Grand Prix Special to finish just over a mark behind. Sweden’s Therese Nilshagen, fourth yesterday, produced the first over-80% score of today’s competition with the stunning stallion Dante Weltino before Britain’s Carl Hester and Nip Tuck fractionally improved on that to change the lead. But when Dufour, third-last to go, posted 84.560 with Atterupgaards Cassidy the real battle commenced.
Rothenberger is a young man on a mission, oozing confidence and pzazz. Mastering the most difficult movements with the greatest of ease, he marched down the final centreline to throw down a massive score of 90.614 which really put it up to his compatriot.
But Werth thrives under pressure, and she had her game face on as her Freestyle music began. Weihegold listened to her all the way, producing a flawless performance that the crowd really enjoyed. But the tension on the German rider’s face as she waited for her mark to light up the scoreboard said it all. She knew it was going to be dangerously close.
“I was really hoping it would be good enough because Weihe was a good as she could be, it was her best test so I was happy and hoping it would be enough – and it was!” she said, having edged ahead by just 0.368 marks. In fact all three medallists produced personal-best Freestyle scores today.
Werth, who also steered Weihegold to victory at the FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final in Omaha (USA) in April, couldn’t hold back the tears on the medal podium. “I was full of adrenaline when I went in to ride, so it’s a mixture of all the emotions you have during the week – I’m really grateful and thankful for what this week has brought me” said the lady who has experienced more golden moments in her extraordinary career than any other athlete in the history of equestrian sport.
Rothenberger looks like a real threat to her supremacy however. Holding his silver medal this evening he said with a smile, “if you look closely, it’s silver with a golden edge!” For tonight however Werth remains the queen of all she surveys, her latest golden haul still just another good week at the office.
It’s exactly 10 years since she first took European Freestyle title at La Mandria (ITA). That was with another of her super-star rides and, looking at her final medal of the week tonight Werth said tonight, “Satchmo would be proud!”
Facts and Figures:
15 horse-and-rider combinations from 7 nations competed in today’s finale to Dressage at the Longines FEI European Championships 2017 in Gothenburg, the individual Freestyle.
Winning rider Isabell Werth’s score of 90.982 was just short of the record European Dressage Freestyle score of 91.250 set by Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro at the 2013 edition in Herning, Denmark.
Isabell Werth and Sonke Rothenberger were both on the the gold medal winning German team at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Werth and Weihegold took individual Olympic silver in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Sonke Rothenberger GER (silver), talking about his Dutch family connections: “maybe there’s a slight touch of orange to this medal!”
Sonke Rothenberger GER (silver): “I don’t go into test thinking of what others can do and then try to be better. I go into the test trying to show in the ring everything we practice outside and today was really a day where we made a plan and we trained outside in the warm-up, and today was a day when he gave me back exactly what I was asking for and that’s just what I do it for. He is a character of a horse and I just love him the way he is, he has this shiny edge and with his ears to the front he does the most difficult movement and I get goosebumps every time!”
Cathrine Dufour DEN (bronze): “Cassidy was more calm today, he really did everything he could, and I knew I had to be no 1 when I left the arena because I knew these two were coming. So I was really happy when I saw my score at the bit-check, and I knew these two would really ride for their lives and I’m very very happy!”