After days of hard-fought competition, the FEI World Championships Dressage came to a close with the Grand Prix Freestyle tonight in Herning. With Charlotte Fry and Cathrine Laudrup-Dufour jostling for the top spot throughout the week, the Freestyle would decide which of the two went home with their second gold medal of the week.
Results-wise, it was a repeat of the Special, with Fry taking home the gold medal, Dufour the silver, and Dinja van Liere the bronze. On top of becoming the World Freestyle Champion, Fry also joined the coveted 90% club, joining only a handful of the world’s top riders who have broken the 90% barrier internationally.
Despite the event going on well into the evening, a strong crowd added to the electric atmosphere. Under a floodlit arena, the riders were applauded down the centre lines for their final piaffes, the crowd whistling and cheering with all their might after the final halts.
And of course, the sea of Danish flags was a lovely extra touch for the home riders. Younger Dressage fans would have been delighted by the selection of Freestyle music on offer, with a huge amount of riders moving away from the traditional, safe choices of previous years and instead opting for upbeat, modern music.
Dujardin – crowd favourite and reigning Freestyle champion coming into Herning – would usually be a shoo-in for a medal. But as tonight was (quite remarkably) Imhotep’s first ever Freestyle Grand Prix test, the odds were stacked against her at this level which was reflected in her final standing of 10th place.
Werth was next in, and although the Queen of Dressage wasn’t to add another jewel to her crown this time, her test was nevertheless a joy to watch, with a particular highlight being a circle of two time tempis straight into one time tempis set to the tune of Bryan Adams’ ‘Straight from the Heart.’
Despite the absence of his Olympic gold medallist sister Jessica, Benjamin von Bredow-Werndl carried the family name high at the World Championships of his career, shooting straight into first place after his test with only three riders left to go: the three who were on the podium after the Grand Prix Special.
His reign didn’t last long, however, with Fry immediately snatching the top spot and guaranteeing herself a medal. Fry and her picture-perfect stallion started off their test with a bang, piaffing to Queen’s hit ‘Another One Bites The Dust.’
A slew of equally big hits came, with Robbie Williams, The Verve, and The Beatles all in the mix. But the true highlight was the test itself, rewarded by the judges with a 90.6%. The crowd could barely contain themselves, bursting into spontaneous cheers throughout the test and giving the pair a standing ovation.
The real question on everyone’s lips; would hometown hero Dufour be able to piaffe her way into pole position? Or would she be pipped to the post by the sensational British team of Lottie Fry and Glamourdale?
Dinja van Liere, having clinched bronze in the Special, knew she would need over 90% to earn her spot on the podium. She rode a generally positive and harmonious test on Hermes – but a few minor mistakes brought down her overall score and put her into silver at 86% with Fry comfortably in the lead.
The real drawcard was saved for last, with Denmark’s top rider Dufour and her 10-year-old partner Vamos Amigos taking to the stage. One mistake in an early extended trot drew gasps from an anxious audience, who were practically willing her to the gold from their seats.
Although she couldn’t topple Fry from her position atop the leaderboard, she did post an 89.4% and clinch the silver, pushing von Bredow-Werndl down into fourth position and leaving Gareth Hughes in a well-deserved fifth place.
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