"I can't wait for 2003 to be over," Van Grunsven sighed during the press conference at the CDI-W Maastricht. The 2003 has been a "annus horribilis" for Dutch Olympic champion Anky van Grunsven. A fall of her horse resulted in two operations and five months of rehabilitation. Furthermore, her mounts Krack C and Salinero both got injured, which made her miss the 2003 European Championships. The contract with her big time sponsor Gestion is ending after the 2004 Olympic Games and to make it all even worse, her recently sold Grand Prix horse Idool dropped dead in the field, for which she's now being sued by Idool's last owner, Henk van Aalderen. The misery did not seem to come to an end.
But the tables are finally turning. Anky van Grunsven is back in the saddle and is stronger than ever. Aboard the Hanoverian gelding Gestion Salinero (by Salieri), Van Grunsven reigned supreme at the World Cup qualifiers of Maastricht and Mechelen with outstanding scores. In Maastricht, German Heike Kemmer won the Grand Prix, while Anky placed fourth with 70.08%. However, Van Grunsven fought her way back in the Kur to Music placing second behind Kemmer with 79.975%. Van Grunsven rode to a newly composed freestyle based on French chansons. At the CDI-W in Mechelen, Belgium, Anky and Salinero were the unbeatable pair claiming the trophy in the Grand Prix and Kur with 72.12% and 80.825%.
"2003 is finally over," Van Grunsven said in relief, "and now I am only looking forward. I won't force myself trying to regain this lost period. It's impossible. My goal remains the same: the Olympic Games in Athens and there I want to perform as well as possible."
While Van Grunsven stole the show with her "L'Esprit Chanson" freestyle, other European riders also put in remarkable performances. In the absence of the German riders, the Dutch dressage team dominated the Belgian World Cup Qualifier in Mechelen. Edward Gal finished second twice with his KWPN gelding Gestion Lingh (by Flemmingh), while shooting star Antoinette Falandt ranked third aboard her Ferro offspring Jarwo.
In the small tour in Mechelen, Danish Fie Skarsoe dazzled the crowds aboard the Trakehner licensed stallion Munchhausen. With top scores of 70.80% in the Prix St Georges and 74.900% in the Intermediaire I kur, Skarsoe twice fended off Belgian Arlette Holsters, who rode two strong tests with Melvin (by Flemmingh). Melvin is owned by Belgian junior rider Julie de Deken, who has given her horse at her trainer's disposal.
One week before the CDI-W Mechelen, a small CDI competition was held in Milan, Italy. The Grand Prix was won by the Swiss Birgit Wientzek/Pläge on Sappalot (by Silvano), but American Kamila Dupont placed second on Reveille with 64.375%. In the Freestyle, Dupont pushed up her score to 66,020%, but finished fourth overall in that class.