Turning down that final center line Charlotte Dujardin (GBR) knew she’d left it all in the ring at the Deodoro Olympic Park in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. The defending champion dropped the reins at the final halt and collapsed into a bear hug on Valegro’s neck.
The score: 93.857%
A faultless performance under the scorching South American sun and a new Olympic gold medal around her neck.
“I knew he couldn’t have done any more. He literally felt like he’d done his very best and I’m really emotional…” said an overwhelmed Dujardin immediately after her round.
“It was just one of those magical rides when you have that partnership and connection and bond. I felt like nothing could break and it all just kind of happened. It felt so effortless and easy. The last center line was really emotional for me because I thought he couldn’t have done any more if he tried.”
It was a storybook ending to a modern day fairytale.
Dujardin and the famed gelding have captured the imagination of the world over with their untouchable career. Their nearly unbroken string of victories over the past five years includes three world records (in the Grand Prix, Grand Prix Special, and Grand Prix Freestyle), World and European titles, and, as of today, double Olympic individual gold medals.
But like all good stories, that of Charlotte and Valegro’s must eventually come to an end. The final next chapter remains to be written, but retirement is certainly in the cards for Valegro, said the 31-year old.
“I know I’m not going to do another Olympics with him. I’m probably not going to do another massive championship. He’s been the horse of a lifetime. A complete legend,” said an emotional Dujardin.
“I owe it to him to finish at the top.”
Today’s medal means Dujardin now joins the elite ranks of multi-Olympic gold medalists that includes Anky van Grunsven (NED), Henri Saint Cyr (SWE) and Nicole Uphoff (GER).
Germany’s Isabell Werth captured the silver medal with a score of 89.071% aboard Weihegold Old. In doing so, she becomes the first equestrian athlete to win 10 Olympic medals in any discipline. Werth’s teammate and current world #1 Kristina Broring-Sprehe took bronze with an 87.142% on Desperados FRH.
No fairytale is complete without a wedding. Dean, Dujardin’s fiancé of four years, posted a sign as she took to the ring today that read: “Will you marry me now?” To which, the darling of dressage replied “yes.”
“He is such a banana. Bless him. He’s been waiting a long time. He asked me just before London and I said yes, and I don’t think he thought it would happen so he’s made it so public. Now I definitely have to do it.”
Dujardin says the wedding will likely happen next year.
If this was indeed the last hurrah, what a perfect way to go out.