Britain ended Germany’s decades-long domination of equestrian team dressage by winning the Olympic gold medal at Greenwich Park in London on Tuesday, adding to the squad’s first team show jumping gold in 60 years a day earlier.
Germany took the silver and the Netherlands bronze.
It was Britain’s first dressage medal ever and it capped an equestrian competition that saw the home team medal in every team discipline — gold in the dressage and show jumping, and silver in eventing.
“I hope it doesn’t end here. I hope it’s the start of the team evolving,” said Britain’s Laura Belchtolsheimer, who rode Mistral Hojris.
In dressage, the horse performs a carefully choreographed routine of movements that showcase the animal’s training — prancing trots, extended strides, twirling pirouettes and a move called the flying change, which looks like the horse is skipping.
The competition received unusual attention in London because the US team featured Rafalca, a horse co-owned by the wife of Republican US presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The US finished sixth and Rafalca, ridden by Jan Ebeling, ended in 28th place and out of contention for the individual medal competition.
Ann Romney was in the VIP stands on Tuesday, as was Princess Anne, whose daughter Zara Phillips was part of the silver-winning British equestrian eventing team.
Germany has won every Olympic team gold in dressage since 1976, with the exception of the boycott year in 1980, and Britain has never won a dressage medal, period.
In perhaps a first for any dressage event, which are usually rather staid affairs, the crowd in the stands went through several rounds of the Mexican Wave after it became clear Britain had won.
The final team totals were Britain with 79.979 percent, Germany with 78.216 percent and the Netherlands with 77.124 percent.
It was a back-to-back win for Britain, who won their first team show jumping medal in 60 years in the same arena on Monday. Led by Nick Skelton, who returned to the sport after breaking his neck in a 2000 competition fall, the British team rode clear rounds in a jump-off to give the hosts victory over the Netherlands. Saudi Arabia, a relative newcomer to the sport, were a surprising third.
The 18 highest scoring individuals in the team dressage competition advance to perform a freestyle test today, with movements and music of the rider’s own choosing, similar to freestyle ice skating or the floor exercise in gymnastics.
Going into the freestyle event, Germany and Britain both have their three riders in the top eight, which also includes current world leader Adelinde Cornelissen of the Netherlands riding Parzival and top US rider Steffen Peters on Ravel.