Dressage sport couldn't be more exciting than today's MEGGLE-Prize, when the first European Championships individual medals were awarded in Aachen. In the end, the defending champion and top-favourite finished first in the Grand Prix Spécial, but she made it extremely exciting: the 30-year-old British rider, Charlotte Dujardin with her Olympic gold-winning partner, Valegro. "Damn, I stopped counting after the 14th flying change and thought I was already done," scolded the European Champion after her ride. It was her only small technical fault in today's individual classification of the FEI European Championships Aachen 2015. She should actually have ridden 15 flying changes. She said laughing and was grinning from ear to ear. She knows: It was a great ride. Mission: defending her title, accomplished!
"On entering the ring, I saw Kristina Sprehe's score flashing up on the screen and it was good," she recounted. "But it didn't scare me. On the contrary: It motivated me even more." The 28,000 spectators in Aachen celebrated the defending champion with 'standing ovations’ and thunderous applause.
Dujardin is the reigning Olympic gold medallist, World Champion - and since today two-time European Champion. She even succeeded in setting a new European Championship record. Her score 87.577 – has never been achieved before in the Grand Prix Special of the European Championships history. The young British rider is used to breaking records: She holds the world records in all three competitions of the international Grand Prix sport.
Kristina Bröring-Sprehe broke the spell and secured the silver medal for Germany with Desperados after finishing on a score of 83.067. Up until then, the signs weren't looking good for the German dressage riders at this year's European Championships. After 'only' claiming bronze in the team classification, Isabell Werth was the first German rider to enter the ring and she lost her concentration slightly in the test and made an error of course. "I have been in this sport for 25 years and today of all days I made such a mistake," said the astounded 46-year-old. She was, however, otherwise very pleased with the performance of her horse, Don Johnson: "He was better than me today!" Finishing on a score of 75.924, the 34-time medal winner ultimately ranked seventh.
Jessica von Bredow-Werndl opened with a fantastic tour in trot with Unée, but then she made mistakes in both tours of the flying changes: Her final score was 74.79, which meant eighth place. Kristina Bröring-Sprehe presented an expressive round with no technical errors. "I had a fantastic feeling with Desperados," she raved. "And he loves the atmosphere in the big Aachen stadium." After winning bronze at the World Championships last year, the silver medal here in Aachen is the second individual medal for the 29-year-old.
Whereas, the rider from the Netherlands, Hans-Peter Minderhoud, celebrated a premiere with Johnson. After winning Olympic team gold and team gold at the World and European Championships, Minderhoud claimed his first individual medal in Aachen. Under 'difficult' conditions. He suffered from a stomach infection the night before the MEGGLE-Prize and admitted: "My legs were like spaghetti during the test and I wasn't really able to enjoy my ride. But when I saw the marks, I was very happy!" His team colleagues and his partner, Edward Gal, were delighted about Minderhoud's bronze medal. Gal had also been a top candidate for a medal at the start of the competition, but unfortunately he wasn't able to finish his test, because his horse, Undercover, bit his lip during the test and it had bled slightly. According to the international regulations, the chief judge is obliged to ring the bell under such circumstances.
The best 15 pairs from today's Grand Prix Spécial will battle it out tomorrow to win further medals in the Deutsche Bank Prize, the Grand Prix Freestyle. Including, for example, the Spanish Vice World Champion of 2002, Beatriz Ferrer-Salat with Delgado, who narrowly missed winning a medal today after coming fourth. Carl Hester, the British Olympic team gold medallist of 2014 is also among the Freestyle competitors. He was also on the team in London in 2012, together with his team colleague here in Aachen, Charlotte Dujardin, whom he discovered and whom he trains. So, in a way, he sort of also won the gold medal today, too.
The last dressage competition offering the possibility to win an individual medal at the FEI European Championship Aachen 2015 starts tomorrow, on Sunday, at 1.30 p.m. - the Deutsche Bank Prize, the Grand Prix Freestyle. 90 percent of the 40,000 seats in the Main Stadium of the traditional Aachen showgrounds have already been sold, so that typical Aachen "goose-bump atmosphere' is already guaranteed.