Rio de Janeiro – The U.S. Dressage Team closed out a day of strong performances with a third place finish on the final day of Grand Prix competition at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Scores from the Grand Prix are half of the equation in the dressage team competition, with Friday’s Grand Prix Special providing the other half.
Competing at his fourth Olympic Games, Steffen Peters recognizes the importance of performing under pressure to support the team effort. He rode a carefully controlled, accurate, flowing test with Legolas 92 to score a 77.614 percent, one of the best marks to date for the gelding in the Grand Prix.
“It has always been my dream to deliver for my team,” Peters said. “It’s the Olympic Games, so we are 90 percent about the team medal and the other 10 percent, maybe even less, is the individual medal. I’m just so excited that Legolas did one of his best tests of his life, maybe one of the best tests of my life.”
He added, “It’s been a difficult road with Legolas. Sometimes I didn’t know exactly which horse was going into the show arena. But he did not change one single bit from the warm-up arena to the show arena, and there was not one single point that we gave away. This was it. This was the test I dreamed of for my team.”
When Laura Graves headed down centerline later in the afternoon, the Dutch and U.S. teams were very close together in the race for the podium position. Graves’ performance showed the result of her hard work with Verdades, with improved piaffes and outstanding pirouettes earning them high marks. A late final change coming out of the half-pass zigzag lost them some points there and also caused them to be less prepared for the one-tempis, but they still finished on a big score of 78.071 percent.
“My horse was really super,” Graves said. “Unfortunately we were not able to ride clean today, but I’m super happy with the feeling and the way the training is reflecting. (I’m happy with) the passage/piaffe, which is the talent for this horse, but not so much in the arena when he’s not quite sure where he needs to be with all his big legs. I feel like that has really improved over the past two months.”
Graves concluded, “I can’t say enough good things about our team. Team has many different meanings. So as equestrians, the Olympics are really special. We have the team of our horses and the team of ourselves, and our trainers, friends and family. Then we have each other. I could not ask to be here with a better group of people. Here we also get to be Team USA, which is something really special. It’s definitely a memory we will have for a lifetime.”
The U.S. Dressage Team finished on an average score of 76.971 percent to qualify for Friday’s Grand Prix Special in third place, narrowly edging out the team from The Netherlands, but just over two percentage marks away from second place’s Great Britain.