Harmony Wins at the FEI European Grand Prix Freestyle

Sunday, August 21, 2011
Posted by Claartje van Andel dressagedirect



Today Cornelissen was crowned as freestyle queen, Carl Hester and Patrik Kittel as the princes on Silver and Bronze. The Netherlands' Adelinde Cornelissen was in a class of her own as she claimed her second Gold Medal in two days when winning the Grand Prix Freestyle at the FEI European Dressage Championships 2011 in Rotterdam (NED) this afternoon. These Championships have provided a refreshing boost for the sport of Dressage, as a rising tide is exposing a wealth of new human and equine talent while also highlighting the quality of the current stars. Yesterday she was super-cool when topping the Grand Prix Special, despite an error of course that might have unhinged many others, but today she was simply super-confident, ultra-professional and totally concentrated as she steered Jerich Parzival to a flawlesss performance that left the Freestyle result beyond any doubt. "She did a wonderful job, and was the clear winner of the day", said Ground Jury President Ghislain Fouarge afterwards. 

In a gripping competition filled with all kinds of possibilities, the spectators engaged with every competitor that came into the ring and expressed their opinion each time a result went up on the board. There was a huge roar from the home side when Cornelissen was awarded the winning mark of 88.839, but it was almost matched by the approval registered for the 84.179 achieved by Silver Medallist Carl Hester from Great Britain who has stolen the hearts of a whole new generation of dressage fans. Bronze went to Sweden's Patrik Kittel whose foot-perfect test with Watermill Scandic was awarded 83.429.

Held the Lead

Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz and his grey stallion Fuego de Cardenas
Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz and his grey stallion Fuego de Cardenas
Germany's Isabell Werth held the lead after the first eight of the 15 starters had taken their turn. Riding El Santo NRW, she posted 80.536 to overtake Hester's protege Charlotte Dujardin whose performance with Valegro didn't altogether meet with the approval of her boss. "For the first time she was nervous today and she went in and lost her way - she missed every turn. She's not experienced enough to put it right when it goes wrong and I nearly fell over myself I was so annoyed with her!" Hester said afterwards with a twinkle in his eye. Testament to the quality of the horse's obvious potential however was Valegro's score of 79.357 which, in the final analysis, left the nine-year-old gelding and his promising but inexperienced rider in ninth place at the end of the day.

With just six left to go, Spanish showman Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz set the arena alight with a truly entertaining performance from his grey stallion Fuego de Cardenas that included fabulous one-tempi changes on a left-handed circle and a dare-devil one-handed one-tempi parade up the centre line.

The spectators couldn't contain themselves even though there was plenty more of the test to come, and broke out into spontaneous applause in time with the music. His leading score of 80.982 held for only a moment however, as Kittel quickly swept it away with a stunning ride on Watermill Scandic HBC. The 12-year-old stallion has often shown rhythm and precision, but this test took those elements to another level altogether as horse and rider blended into a single unit that was completely in harmony with their Depeche Mode musical score. Scandic looks like he could do perfect passage all day long and that, accompanied by wonderful piaffe, helped achieve a personal-best score of 83.429.

The stuff of Dreams

Carl Hester and the fabulous Uthopia
Carl Hester and the fabulous Uthopia
And then came Hester with Uthopia, whose extended trot is the stuff of dreams and whose potential seems limitless. With floating half-pass and great piaffe, combined with the happiest, bounciest canter imaginable, they registered 84.179 to put it up to the remaining three. Hester's team-mate Laura Bechtolsheimer couldn't overtake him, despite the fact that she really nailed the piaffe with Mistral Hojris this time out as she scored 83.018, and now there were only two left to go.

The tension was palpable as Cornelissen set off with Parzival, but there was no cause for concern. They were right in the zone from the very beginning of a performance that was almost totally perfect, the big gelding producing the most delightful passage and piaffe as he danced his way to a new high of 88.768.

Only Germany's Matthias Alexander Rath and Totilas could prevent the Dutch duo from scoring an individual double of wins now. But the glory would remain with the host nation as the German duo posted 83.018, only good enough for fifth place behind Bechtolsheimer. Talking about Rath's performance afterwards, Ground Jury President Fouarge said, "yesterday Totilas was too short in the neck and a bit tense and it was similar today. They've only competed together five times", Mr Fouarge pointed out, "there are no words for Totilas, Matthias is a good rider. The combination needs more time to come together."

Good From the Beginning

Cornelissen said this evening that her test today felt good from the very beginning. "It felt particularly good in front of my home crowd, but I had to tell myself to concentrate because, after yesterday, I didn't want to forget my programme!" she admitted.

Hester reflected on the spectacular results he has achieved in the past few days - team gold, and silver in both the Special and Freestyle. "I didn't think, six weeks ago, that it could be possible to win an individual medal here, my horse has improved beyond all recognition, at Hickstead he found a new gear and now - here I am!" he said.

Patrik Kittel and Watermill Scandic HBC
Patrik Kittel and Watermill Scandic HBC
Kittel was claiming Sweden's first individual medal since Jan Brink and Briar took silver at Hickstead in 2003, so it was a special achievement. "I'm so happy sitting here with a medal around my neck!" he said at the post-competition press conference. "I've been dreaming of this since I was a kid and it's very special. Today my horse went better than ever and because I went early I was sitting there waiting to see everyone else. Watermill Scandic is unbelievably good at the moment. When he was doing his last piaffe/passage today I was thinking 'is this real?'."

For Cornelissen now it is time to give Parzival a break and to celebrate an extraordinary year in which she has claimed the Reem Acra FEI World Cup(tm) title along with European Grand Prix Special and Freestyle gold, as well as team bronze. Quite an achievement. And her next goal? "I only have to complete two World Cup qualifiers to get to the World Cup Final next year and then, after that, well then there's London!" she said tonight. Success at the 2012 Olympic Games is next in her sights....

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