When word got out that a typhoon was headed in Tokyo’s direction and was expected to arrive just in time for the Grand Prix Special, we thought, oh no, not something else. Not only did the typhoon never come but the night was filled with a lot of electricity as each Team USA horse and rider combination proved we have what it takes.
After qualifying in the Grand Prix to compete in the Grand Prix Special, Team USA started in the fourth position overall. However, by the time the evening ended, team member Steffen Peters made the comment, “sometimes your reality is better than your dreams.”
For fifth time Olympian Peters that dream was to come home with a Bronze Medal but there he sat next to teammates Adrienne Lyle and Sabine Schut-Kery as each of them proudly held on to their silver medal. For this night had just one thing gone wrong, they would have easily finished the evening never having had the chance to stand on that podium.
“All three horses couldn’t make one mistake,” continued Peters. “We all knew that one mistake could lose us the medal.”
Instead, strong and steady riding earned them their reward and the final ride by Schut-Kery with a personal best score of 81.596 gave them that little bit of luck they needed to move up the ranks.
When Sabine was asked how it felt to go home in her and Sanceo’s very first Olympics with a silver medal, she took a moment to respond. “I’m speechless. I’m so proud of my teammates, the coaches, the owners and everyone else.” And of course it was her horse Sanceo who she praised. “He is such a fighter in the ring and a sweetheart in the stall.”
Lyle compared her second Olympic experience to her previous one in London in 2012, noting that Japan and COVID made this one “a much more foreign experience.” She too was proud of her horse Salvino, while Peters couldn’t say enough about Suppenkasper, including preferring to call him Mopsie and explaining that they “meditate together. I love him and what a fortunate guy I am to ride a horse like that.”
The gold medal went to the German team for the 14th time while the Brits took the Bronze. The nucleus of the German team was Isabell Werth because no one could claim that they too had been to 15 Olympic Games. “It’s never boring to win a medal and especially a gold medal,” commented Werth adding that they already had their plans to celebrate with a drink in the stable, since the hotel wouldn’t allow it.
It had taken two days of Grand Prix competition to get to this final team competition.
The Grand Prix was the final deciding factor for which teams would make it to the Special. It began with a total of 15 teams who could potentially compete. Individually a totally of 59 horse and rider combinations competed but that included many who did not have the necessary three competitors required to compete as a team. That said, in the past, four riders were allowed but with new rules in place that number was narrowed down to three in the hopes that it would give more countries the potential to be represented and in fact that did happen. There were some countries who had never competed in the equestrian events at an Olympics.
The deciding factor for who made it into the final 8 were the scores. Those with the top scores earned their ticket to enter the class. But once inside the scores were not carried over and everyone began on a clean slate.
The format of the competition was to compete in groups, with only one rider from each team going in each group. This required a bit of a strategy by the Chef d’equipes to decide what plan would give them the best ability to claim a victory in the final round.
For the US team that strategy included have Adrienne lead the pack in the first round, while Steffen stood steadfast in the second and Sabine did what the team needed in the last round to give them their silver medal.
The medal ceremony was different than usual. There were no crowds to support their teams and wearing a face mask was not a choice. They only took them off for 30 seconds for a very quick photo op.
For this dressage victory, it wasn’t a dream come true, it was the end result of a team behind the team and three very talented horses and riders.