Equestrian: Diverse backgrounds come together to win gold for Great Britain in the team dressage at Greenwich


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 today. 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 slender lead of just 0.562 per cent over Germany, Britain increased the margin 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.

Experience usually counts for everything in this sport – the 71-year-old Japanese rider, Hiroshi Hoketsu, is the oldest competitor at London 2012 – but 27-year-old Dujardin in particular has achieved her success with astonishing speed.

Having made her international debut at the start of last year, she helped the British team win their first European Championship gold medal in the summer and by the end of the year was outperforming her colleagues. Dujardin set an Olympic record both in the Grand Prix, the first phase of the competition last week, and in today’s concluding Grand Prix Special. Hester first broke the record with a score of 80.571 per cent before Dujardin broke it again with a mark of 83.286, the highest of the day.

In the small world of dressage – it is estimated that only 30,000 people in Britain take part in the sport – the three British riders have especially close ties. Hester, 45, was given his introduction to the sport 23 years ago when he worked for 27-year-old Bechtolsheimer’s father, Wilfried, a renowned dressage trainer who rode for Britain after bringing his family to Britain from his native Germany more than 20 years ago.

Dujardin, meanwhile, went to Hester’s Gloucestershire yard five years ago as a temporary replacement for one of his employees and has never left. She could be in the unusual position on Thursday of contesting the medals with her boss, whom she playfully calls “grandfather”.

Bechtolsheimer said: “There’s a good dynamic between all of us and we feel very comfortable with each other. We have a good laugh. I think Charlotte and I compete quite heavily over who does the dumbest blonde things. Carl sort of patronises us, like we’re children.”

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 post box, which will now be painted gold, as are post boxes in the home towns of all Britain’s Olympic champions.

“I am very proud of that place where I come from and they will be very excited to have an Olympic champion from the Channel Islands,” Hester said. “They 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.”

Britain’s success in dressage is another example of the rewards that Lottery funding has brought. The British Equestrian Federation received nearly £13.4m in Lottery funding between the Beijing Games in 2008 and London 2012, an increase of more than £1.5m on the previous four-year cycle.

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Mark Wright
tvStrictly goes head-to-head with Apprentice
footballPremier League preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's clashes
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas