Attempting to topple Germany in team dressage is an even bigger task than beating their footballers on penalties, but Charlotte Dujardin, Carl Hester and Laura Bechtolsheimer defied the odds to give Britain the gold medal in front of 23,000 flag-waving supporters at Greenwich Park yesterday.
It not only ended Germany's 28-year reign as Olympic champions but gave Britain their first medal of any colour in 100 years of dressage competition at the Games.
It was a fitting way for Team GB to celebrate their most successful Olympics for 104 years. This was the medal that took the home team's overall tally to 20 golds, one more than they won in Beijing four years ago.
It followed the performance 24 hours earlier in the same spectacular arena by Britain's showjumpers, who won their first gold for 60 years. More might follow in the next two days, with Nick Skelton and Dujardin among the favourites to add individual honours to their team golds.
The team dressage event is decided by a series of set tests which all riders have to perform. It is like a combination of ballet and gymnastics, requiring strength, control, balance and poise. Marks are awarded by five judges, whose scores are added together to give a percentage figure.
Having started the day with a very slender lead of only 0.562 per cent over Germany, Britain increased the margin of advantage by recording a final average score of 79.979 per cent. Germany took the silver with a score of 78.216 and the Netherlands the bronze with 77.124.
While nobody would claim that dressage is about to become a major grass-roots sport – do not expect hordes of inner-city children to start pestering their parents for a dressage outfit this Christmas – the British team could hardly have come from more diverse backgrounds.
Dujardin attended a comprehensive school in Bedfordshire, Bechtolsheimer is the grand-daughter of a German property billionaire, while Hester spent the first 16 years of his life on Sark, which he described as "the most ridiculously small island in the world". Sark has just one postbox, which will now be painted gold, as are postboxes in the home towns of all Britain's Olympic champions.
"I am very proud of where I come from and they will be very excited to have an Olympic champion from the Channel Islands," Hester said. "People there were very, very upset that the Olympic torch relay didn't go to Sark. It went to Guernsey instead – and if you come from Sark, Guernsey is a dirty word."
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