Van Grunsven does it again
Three-time gold medallist rules out trying for a fourth in London
A blue television microphone moved back and forth between gold medallist Anky van Grunsven and silver medallist Isabell Werth. The two long-time rivals stood inches apart, answering questions. It was a familiar scene to followers of the equestrian circuit but one that may never be seen again.
Long before this competition began the question had been whether or not the Netherlands' Van Grunsven could win another individual dressage crown.
Now, that it was over and she had succeeded in winning the individual gold at her third successive Games, there was a new question on eberyone's lips: would she be back to try for a fourth in London.
'No, I don't think I'm ever going to come back,' she said.
'It is unbelievable to win three golds in a row, with two different horses. I am the most spoilt person in the world.'
Van Grunsven, 40, has said 'no' before. She has said she has no intention to keep riding into her 80s.
'I cannot even believe it,' Van Grunsven said of her medal, which was won with a score of 78.68 per cent, beating Werth by over two per cent. But Werth, who won team gold in these Games, had conceded the gold medal before Van Grunsven had even began her freestyle - a piece composed especially by her by Dutch pianist Wibi Soerjadi - because of a mistake in her routine that she knew was irredeemable.
'I think the rest [of my freestyle] was super,' said Werth, just 10 minutes before Van Grunsven was set to compete. 'Without this mistake, it would have been very exciting between Anky and me, but now, no.'
The mistake Werth referred to was in the piaffe pirouette when her horse became spooked in a way reminiscent of another error in the Grand Prix Special. It was an expensive mistake, one Werth said she had not made in three years.
'It's a shame that it happened at the Olympic Games, but I think some of you can remember that I said it was too good the last three years, it was always easy and straight,' Werth said.
'Sometimes, the Olympic Games has a little drama and it's not a big drama for me because we won the gold medal for the German team.'
Van Grunsven admitted there had been pressure on her to win a medal with Salinero but, once she learned of Werth's score (Van Grunsven was the last of 15 to ride), she knew she still had to do a good test, but that she did not need to take all the risks.
The bronze went to German Heike Kemmer, a two-time team Olympic medallist but never in the individual event before last night. Kemmer, with Bonaparte, rode a kur (freestyle) that was an ode to the 1970s and earned her a score of 74.455. She narrowly edged out American Steffen Peters, who scored 74.15 per cent.
'I think the highlight was that my horse was fluid through the test,' Kemmer said. 'He wanted to work, he wanted to make every single exercise of the freestyle. We were both together through the whole test.'
1 Anky van Grunsven (Salinero) (Netherlands) 78.680
2 Isabell Werth (Satchmo) (Germany) 76.650
3 Heike Kemmer (Bonaparte) (Germany) 74.455'
4 Steffen Peters (Ravel) (US) 74.150
5 Hans Peter Minderhoud (Nadine) (Netherlands) 73.035
6 Alexandra Korelova (Balagur) (Russia) 72.625
7 Emma Hindle (Lancet) (Britain) 72.345
8 Kyra Kyrklund (Max) (Finland) 71.985
9 Bernadette Pujals (Vincent) (Mexico) 71.675
10 Jan Brink (Briar) (Sweden) 71.205
11 Andreas Helgstrand (Don Schufro) (Denmark) 70.675
12 Tinne Silfven (Solos Carex) (Sweden) 70.345
13 Courtney King (Mythilus) (US) 70.175
14 Ashley Holzer (Pop Art) (Canada) 70.105
15 Nathalie Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein (Digby) (Denmark) 69.110