Despite some of the toughest competitors vying for spots for both the final eight teams and the top 18 individual combinations, Team USA riders proved their nettle. After two days of Grand Prix competition, they earned their chance to compete in both the Grand Prix Special team competition and the Grand Prix Freestyle individual competition. With new dressage rules in place, it was a fight to the finish.
While the leading contender individually is five-time Olympic Gold Medalist Isabell Werth, who scored 82.500, and the top three teams are Germany, Great Britain and Denmark, Team USA’s fourth place finish kept them among the eight countries that will move on to the Grand Prix Special.
To fill the 18 individual spots was based on six groups of ten people. In each group the top two scores automatically qualified them for the individual Grand Prix Freestyle competition.
First time Olympian Sabine Schut-Kery and Sanceo were among the last few riders to go and a score of 78.418, behind Jessica van Bredow-Werndl aboard Dalera’s 84.379 earned them their spot on the first day. While the weather was beautiful until it was time for the last few riders to go, it was during intermittent rain that Schut-Kery and Sanceo showed their brilliance.
“The most important thing for me was to make it here,” commented Schut-Kery, realizing that this was a dream, but then having made the team her first goal was “to ride for my teammates … so there was a little bit more pressure.” What made it extra special was having gotten the horse after he’d only been under saddle 10 times, then going on to train him to ultimately put her on an Olympic team. “...thinking back, I would have never thought where we’d end up,” she added.
On day two of the Grand Prix qualifier, two-time Olympian Adrienne Lyle and Salvino earned their spot. Surprisingly, Salvino’s performance was not one of his best and despite the fact that “going in there he got a little nervous and tense,” explained Lyle, he still put in a good enough test and earned a score of 74.876 behind Denmark’s Carina Cassoe Kruth and Heline’s Danciera’s score of 76.677.
In the final group, Steffen Peters and Suppenkasper were up against Werth and Dujardin (80.963), who claimed the top two spots, with Peters ranking in the third position. However, Peters’ score of 76.196 gave him the coveted 18thspot, allowing him to join his teammates for the Freestyle. Overall, Peters was happy noting, “He went in there very relaxed. We’re going to step it up in the Grand Prix Special, but I think it’s a great spot to be in for the Grand Prix.” Peters went on to say, “the rules were stiffer this year because of COVID but if we can’t respect the rules, we shouldn’t be Olympians, but in the big picture what a tiny space of sacrifice that we made, compared to the rest of the population.”
A SIMPLIFIED EXPLANATION FOR UNDERSTANDING THE RULES OF THE THREE GRAND PRIX
This year’s Olympic competition has a whole new way of deciding who moves on to the Team Grand Prix Special and Individual Grand Prix Freestyle competitions as it is simply a qualifier for both. After the final results were tallied and the scores of each of the three team members totaled, the top highest scored countries are what decides which eight teams will move on to the Grand Prix Special to music.
The Individual rankings are also based on points but understanding how that is tallied is a bit more confusing. It begins with groups of six competing against each other in groups of up to 10 over two days.
Each group can only include a maximum of two of the three team riders, with only one rider per team being allowed in any single group.
The top two scored combinations automatically qualify to go into the Grand Prix Freestyle with the remaining six being determined by highest placed scores to come to a total of 18 dual competition. Both the Special and Freestyle start on a clean slate format.
After the two days, the horses and riders are given a day off in preparation for the remaining two dressage tests which determine the winners and are followed by a awards ceremony.