by Astrid Appels of Eurodressage.com
"I am very excited. It was the best performanceI ever had in a Grand Prix. This is our 3rd Olympic Games together. I think we had a great score," Rafael Soto commented after his Grand Prix ride. The "great score" he got from the judges was 72.792% and turned out to be the winning score of the day. Rafael Soto, who is a chief trainer at the Real Escuela Andalusian Riding School in Jerez de la Frontera, has been having a super year and with his Grand Prix victory has now created team medal opportunities for the Spanish team.
Finishing second in the Grand Prix for Group 1 (26 riders) was German Hubertus Schmidt. His 72.333% score was a major victory for Schmidt. Not only did the mark place him second in the class, but he also ranked above team mate Heike Kemmer.
Hubertus Schmidt, who won the German Professional Dressage Riders' Championships for the fifth time in his career this year, had much to prove in Athens. He had the fight so hard to earn his team spot, as "politics" interfered with his qualification for the team. At the international show in Aachen, Schmidt rode more renowned German riders off the charts and qualified for the team. His 72.333% score in Athens confirms his solidity for the German "Mannschaft."
Schmidt is enjoying his first ever Olympic experience. "Thepressure during the qualification was higher. To be at the Olympic Games is a dream," Schmidt said. Aboard his Hanoverian mare Wansuela Suerte (by Warkant), Schmidt had a very consistent Grand Prix ride. "The piaffe could have been nicer," Schmidt commented. "Nevertheless, I am very happy. We had a good team result. We have proved that we deserve to be in the team."