Charlotte Dujardin broke the record for most Olympic medals won by a British woman when she claimed bronze in the individual dressage on Wednesday.
Here, the PA news agency looks at Dujardin’s spectacular Olympics success story.
Enfield-born Dujardin was just 27 and largely unknown outside the dressage world when she arrived at the London Games. But current Great Britain team-mate Carl Hester, who has trained and mentored Dujardin throughout her career, knew all about her vast potential and confidently predicted she would take the sport by storm at Greenwich Park.
Dujardin and the brilliant Valegro, a horse co-owned by Hester, served notice of their Olympic credentials by setting a new world record for the grand prix special in Germany just three months before the Games, but London took her to rarefied heights as she won team gold alongside Hester and Laura Bechtolsheimer, then took the individual title following a freestyle to music routine that included Land of Hope Glory, The Great Escape and chimes of Big Ben. A star was born.
By the time Dujardin’s second Olympics dawned, she had established total domination of dressage aboard Valegro, holding the sport’s world records in grand prix, grand prix special and freestyle, and was overwhelming favourite to retain her individual crown.
Britain won silver in the team competition, before Dujardin returned and overcame stamina-sapping heat to land another individual gold in what was a completely different experience from London. “I had the expectations and the pressure here, and I did feel it for the first time,” she said afterwards. Valegro, winner of 10 Olympic, world and European gold medals with Dujardin, was formally retired at the London International Horse Show four months later.
In retirement, Valegro is based at Hester’s Gloucestershire yard, while there is a bronze sculpture of the horse and street name – Valegro Avenue – in the market town of nearby Newent, and Dujardin effectively took a year out from elite dressage competition after Rio, concentrating on developing an outstanding string of young horses for which she has a global reputation.
Stars among that group are Mount St John Freestyle and Gio, with Gio her chosen horse for Tokyo. Despite his young age – 10 – and lack of international experience, he delivered a superb grand prix test in qualification for the team and individual finals, and again responded magnificently in the team final to secure a third-placed finish. They followed that up in Wednesday’s individual freestyle final with another brilliant podium place.