GERMANY’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl wowed on the opening day of dressage at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games when she produced the best score of the day - 84.37% - and smashed her own record after a phenomenal Grand Prix test with TSF Dalera.
The German put her team in a strong position to qualify without doubt for the team final. Today (Saturday) saw the first 28 combinations in three groups ride their Grand Prix test, which is only a qualifier for both the team and individual final.
After all combinations have ridden their Grand Prix tomorrow (Sunday), the best eight teams will go forward to Tuesday’s Grand Prix Special where the team medals will be determined, and the best 18 individuals will go through to Wednesday’s Freestyle individual final. The two best individuals from each of the six groups qualify and the next best six scores overall. Scores are not carried forward in any competitions.
Brazil’s individual rider João Victor Marcari Oliva was the very first athlete to enter the incredible arena at the Baji Koen Equestrian Park at 5pm Japenese time (9am Irish time) with Escorial and scored 70.41%.
There was a notable rise in standard when British rider Charlotte Fry began her test with the striking 12-year-old KWPN stallion Everdale. The 25-year-old, who is making her Olympic debut, scored a personal best international Grand Prix score of 77.09% to get Britain off to a good start and top Group A, securing her place in Wednesday’s Freestyle to Music individual final.
Fry, whose late mother Laura competed at the 1992 Barcelona Games alongside Carl Hester, was awarded scores of nine for her one and two-time tempi changes, as well as the piaffe. "He knew it was a big occasion, he was so concentrated all day, he knew it was coming, he is so intelligent," Fry said about Everdale. "I’ve been riding him since he was 7 and he’s now 12.
"I’ve done Young Riders with him and U25 Grand Prix and he’s moved up to Senior Grand Prix in 2019 so we’ve really grown up together and built a really good partnership. He’s fun to ride and I love every day riding him.”
Charlotte Fry and Everdale competing for Britain at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games \ Tomas Holcbecher
Last to go in the first group was Sweden’s first team rider Therese Nilshagen and Dante Weltino OLD who scored 75.14% to take the second individual qualifying slot from Group A.
The ante was upped again when The Netherlands' Edward Gal kicked off Group B with a smashing performance aboard the nine-year-old stallion Total US. By the great Totilas who Gal rode to gold at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, Total US only began competing internationally in 2021 and they were awarded 78.64% to finish second in the group.
World number six Catherine Dufour (Denmark) was last to go and she punched the air when halting on the fabulous 11-year-old chesnut gelding Bohemian. The pair scored 81.05% to top the group. The test was sprinkled with scores of nine, and she received one 10 for her first piaffe.
Britain’s five-time Olympian Carl Hester was second to go in the third group, Group C, with the 12-year-old Jazz gelding En Vogue. The pair had a blip in the two-tempi changes and were awarded scores of three and four for the mistake, and received seven fours for the extended canter that followed. The recovered well and achieved scores of 8.5 and nine for the canter pirouette, finishing on 75.49%.
They ended fourth in the group, however, their score is second best of the ‘non-qualified’ today and he could still qualify for the individual final as one of the “next best” six scores across the board, once the Grand Prix is completed tomorrow.
Carl Hester and En Vouge during the Grand Prix at the Tokyo Olympic Games \ Tomas Holcbecher
USA’s got off to a fabulous start when Sabine Schut-Kery and Sanceo were awarded 78.41% after a very classy test to hold the provisional lead in the group before finishing second and booking her place in the Freestyle.
Hand Peter Minderhoud was the second Dutch team rider of the day with Dream Boy. They placed third in the group with 76.81% and could be among the ‘next best’ riders to qualify for the Freestyle.
Finishing out Group C and the first day in spectacular style was Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl who wowed onlookers with a pretty flawless and effortless test with the stunning 14-year-old mare TSF Dalera.
The judges consistently awarded nines throughout the test and the pair received five scores of 10 for their third piaffe to finish on 84.37% and top the group with the best score of the day.
Jessica said it was hard work. "To be honest I’m very fit, but at the centreline where I started the pirouettes I thought ‘gosh, it’s so exhausting!’ It was so hot in there and the humidity is extreme after the rain. It was tough," she said.
Austria’s Victoria Max-Theurer did not appear in Group B on Saturday. She was forced to withdraw hours before the competition when her horse, Abegglen NRW, was found to have a tooth abbess. As a result, Austria will not have a team as only three riders presented at the vet check, meaning Florian Bacher (Fidertraum) and Christian Schumach (Te Quiero SF) will compete as individuals.
The remaining three groups perform tomorrow. Ireland’s Heike Holstein is fifth to go in Group D at 9.36 Irish time.
Talking about her group, Heike told The Irish Field: “There are some strong ones in it, we will have to do our very best [to be in the top two]."
Britain’s final team rider and reigning Olympic champion Charlotte Dujardin goes tomorrow with the inexperienced Gio, as well as the reigning world and European champion Isabell Werth of Germany with Bella Rose, and German teammate Dorothee Schneider with Showtime.