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Dressage team eye medals breakthrough

August 6, 2012 15:56 pm

Great Britain's dressage team will attempt to make Olympic history by going for gold at Greenwich Park on Tuesday.

The trio of Carl Hester, Laura Bechtolsheimer and Charlotte Dujardin are in pole position ahead of arch-rivals Germany and Holland. They lead by 0.56% following last week's grand prix phase, with Tuesday's grand prix special tests deciding the team medallists.

The four-day gap between grand prix and grand prix special tests has been an unfamiliar one for the riders, but Great Britain team manager Richard Waygood has welcomed such a break, saying: "The plus side is that it has given time to work on weaknesses, and the horses have had time to acclimatise to being here.

"And it has allowed them to recover from the grand prix because - and many people don't realise this - they do get tired. It is psychologically a long wait for the riders, and they react in different ways, but the three riders are in very good shape and handling the pressure well."

Britain has never previously won a dressage Olympic medal, which underlines a staggering rate of progress made over the past three years.

Their previous best Olympic team performance was a sixth place finish at the Beijing Games, while no British rider has ever secured a top five place. Dujardin, 26, is the reigning grand prix special world record holder, and she will be the final British rider to compete on Tuesday on her brilliant 10-year-old Valegro.

Hester and Bechtolsheimer, meanwhile, are also on world-class horses in Uthopia and Mistral Hojris, respectively, and they could take some catching.

Attention will then switch to Thursday's individual freestyle to music competition, which should see all three British riders battling for further medals on the equestrian programme's final day.

"The key as far as the horses are concerned is not to go over the top with their preparation," Waygood added. "The new team format (combining brand prix and grand prix special tests) is good because it allows riders to get into the arena and acclimatise before the grand prix special.

"Alf (Mistral Hojris) is quite a character and he is usually better in the arena the second time in - ie, for the grand prix special. The grand prix special will see the more correct horses rise to the top, and it is all building up to a fantastic finale."

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