A Presidential View on the Olympic Grand Prix
Stephen Clarke, president of the Olympic Judges Panel in London, says the level of the Grand Prix dressage is beyond what has ever been witnessed. "The very high level shown by all the riders, I feel sure that this must be the highest overall standard of any Olympic Games in history," Clarke stated.
Smashing the previous Olympic record with her score of 83.66% on Valegro, Charlotte Dujardin took out the first round of the London dressage yesterday. Stephen was impressed.
"The breath taking risks that Charlotte Dujardin took with her wonderful horse Valegro and they all came off too! It seems that ‘Who dares- wins’!!"
Leading a team of the world's best, Stephen says the judges were all confident, ready, and on the ball for the entirety of the action packed two days!
"We all took comfort in the knowledge that we were each judging every movement of every horse as we saw it with absolutely no political bias."
And with such a demanding task the judges had very little time to rest and had to do their best to keep their minds focused on their massively rewarding and all important role!
"We had only three short breaks of 15 minutes, so just time enough for a coffee and a bathroom break. And we were all too concentrated on the dressage to think about eating. There were some sandwiches available, but we knew the time was tight on the showground, so we had a good breakfast and then found some charming restaurants in Greenwich Village for dinner in the evenings."
With the judges' meeting at the conclusion of each of the Grand Prix section, Stephen says that these discussions play a vital and interesting role in the Olympic schedule.
"We discuss any and all differences in marks, whilst respecting that some exercises may well give different impressions from all the different angles. We had some great discussions - the wonderful thing about this sport is that we can all learn something from each other every single day as long as we keep our minds open whilst remaining true to our core principles. In the end the conclusion was that even when there were slight differences, the ‘team result’ from seven judges, backed up by the ‘safety net’ of the JSP produced the correct result."
With the technology of the sport of dressage now at such an elite level, riders and judges can be extremely confident in their results. However sometimes technology can be rather distracting and even the point of great disappointment.
"I felt very sorry for the Canadian Team and David Marcus, with his horse spooking at the ‘Jurassic Park’ television camera! You would think in these days of modern technology that the cameras could be able to zoom in from a more discrete place than right by the arena!"
Now set for more dressage spectaculars, Stephen says he will never forget taking his seat arena side in London and knows he is part of something truly special.
"The atmosphere was spine tingling. The most exciting competition I have ever judged in my life, and I’m sure that I can say the same for my colleagues. I will remember from today witnessing beautiful dressage in the most incredibly beautiful venue. The only difficulty for the judges was remaining calm in this very heightened atmosphere and simply do our job, but I think that we managed it!"
Text by Sarah Warne for Eurodressage
Photos © Astrid Appels
Eurodressage On the Scene at the 2012 Olympic Games