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.

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Life & Style
Father and son: Michael Williams with son Edmund
lifeAs his son’s bar mitzvah approaches, CofE-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys he’s experienced in learning about his family’s other faith
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
musicJethro Tull frontman leads ‘prog rock’ revival
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
comedy... writes Jenny Collier, the comedian whose recent show was cancelled because there were 'too many women' on the bill
News
House proud: keeping up with the Joneses now extends to children's playhouses
newsLuxury playhouses now on the market for as much as £800
News
news
Life & Style
Stir it up: the writer gets a lichen masterclass from executive chef Vivek Singh of the Cinnamon restaurants
food + drinkLichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines
Extras
indybest
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival
filmKen Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
News
The academic, Annamaria Testa, has set out on her website a list of 300 English words that she says Italians ought to stop using
newsAcademic speaks out against 'Italianglo' - the use of English words in Italian language
Life & Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers