Germans repel Dutch dressage challenge

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The Dutch challenge to Germany's supremacy in the dressage world kept spectators in their seats until the very end of the two days which decided the Team Grand Prix. Both Martin Schaudt on Durgo and Gonnelien Rothenberger on Olympic Dondolo performed well but neither could improve on their team's scores, with the best three to count, leaving Germany 116 marks clear. USA were third for their first ever dressage medal.

Britain finished a demoralising ninth of the 10 teams, lifted from the bottom by the last of their riders, Richard Davison, on Askari, the only ones to perform up to their best.

Davison redeemed some pride by riding his way into the best 25 who qualify for the individual competition on Wednesday. He was delighted with Askari, at nine the youngest horse competing. "It was disappointing that the piaffe was not better," he commented. "It's usually his party piece."

Earlier Britain's Vicky Thompson needed considerable tact to nurse her horse Enfant through a tense situation. "He's easily frightened," she said. "And when he saw those little stone figures on the corners which were not there for our practice session, he had a panic attack. I was too slow to react and got caught out."

She was disappointed with 60.64, after her 67 per cent in Aachen recently, but there was plenty to like about her test which had brilliant moments.

The consistency of Monica Theodorescu who was winning her third consecutive team gold medal, boosted the German team, when she and Grunox scored 1,845 points (73.80 per cent). The Netherlands responded as Anky Van Grunsven, their third rider, on Bonfire achieved the even better 1,893 (75.72 per cent), only topped by Isabell Werth on Gigolo (76.60 per cent).

Asked if she was pleased with her marks the 28-year-old Dutch girl replied: "No. It was better than that. I expected nearer 78 per cent." Although she had not watched Werth, many critics said that Bonfire deserved higher marks.

The reigning Olympic champions, Nicole Uphoff-Becker and Rembrandt, who scored record marks in Barcelona, qualifed for the individual Grand Prix Special, with 70.04 per cent. The old horse still shines in the most difficult movements, but has stiffened up at 19 years old and after breaking his leg three years ago. Those who saw probably the best dressage we had ever seen when Rembrandt won at the World Equestrian Games in Stockholm in 1990, felt a little sad, but he is still a hero.