Olympic Pulse: From High Point to Flatline
The past two days I have swerved from a high point when team Great Britain won dressage gold to an absolute flatline, sitting in my broomstick room last night drained from work and bored to death. These are the highs and lows of a dressage Olympics, which forces us journalists to be here for 10 days, even though four of those days are actual competition days!
I greatly anticipated last Tuesday when the team competition would come to a conclusion with the Grand Prix Special as second phase of the nations' cup. The class was super exciting. Thirty-two of the world's best riders were competing in it and the weather was nice (no rain hallelujah!). I positioned myself in between the judges' boxes of C and H to get a different angle on the arena and have the Royal Maretime Museum in the background for a change. The spot made it more difficult to see what was happening at the beginning of each diagonal but this time I had a view on the running scoreboard and was able to follow the judges' assessment while taking photos and notes myself.
With the Dutch riders as some of the last to go, there was an ideal position to get increased scores. It's interesting to see their enormous fighter mentaility. They never give up facing tough adversity. Both Edward Gal and Anky van Grunsven gave it their all. Both horses looked absolutely spectacular but were overcollected as Gal's Undercover was quite tense and as Anky tried in a heroic effort to stay faultfree. I felt the judges' gave them a fair score, but many orange fans and some photographers were grumbling in the stands that the Dutch were robbed off points. Cornelissen reached her usual top level, had a slightly better contact, but could not achieve the same accuracy as Charlotte Dujardin, who even had a small booboo in one of the tempi changes. The Brits won historic gold and celebrated it in front of a 23,000 crowd that went nuts!
It's amazing to think that while Britain celebrates this glorious golden moment, in a few weeks time the dream will be completely over leaving the country empty-handed and starting almost back from scratch, because both Valegro and Uthopia will be sold and the future of the 17-year old Mistral Hojris is unsure. Bechtolsheimer indicated that it's up to "Alf" to see if they will put in another year of competition. If he's fresh and willing, than yes. I can not believe that some of the wealthier British dressage owners are passing up on the opportunity to buy a top horse, such as Valegro, and allow him to go into foreign hands! Eurodressage heard through the grapevine that already one famous rider has booked a try-out session on Valegro and if this person decides to buy than it's bye bye Valegro!
I often wondered why the Bechtolsheimer family are not stepping up to the plate. Laura is in desperate need of a successor and with Tellwell's Grand Prix career dwindling and Andretti and Mistral both reaching a respectable age, Laura needs a new Grand Prix horse to carry on. Isabell Werth argued that she didn't want to ride a ready-made Grand Prix horse when it was suggested her to compete Totilas, but Laura has ridden the ready-to-go GP horses in the past. She took over her father's Douglas Dorsey as a schoolmaster and when they bought Mistral Hojris, he was trained at GP level by Hasse Hoffmann! There is no shame in taking over a made horse, especially if it guarantees your country's future on the podium! Of course it would be fantastic if a sponsor came to the fore and bought the horse for Charlotte to ride, but that could already have happened last year and it didn't!
The award ceremony was a bit crazy. A border line was set up for photographers to stand behind in a distance of the podium and as soon as the gates to the arena opened a stampede of taupe fisherman's jackets took place to get a frontline spot. I walked all the way at the end of the queue and just stood tippy-toed, shooting over someone's shoulder. My pictures were fine ;) Relax man! The press conference was fun but the moderator totally rushed us to ask questions and I felt like I could hardly take a breath in there. The timid Kristina Sprehe only said five words (in German) while Carl was a fountain of speech.
After the conference I headed to my room with a quick stop-over at Marks & Spencer to buy dinner and I started working on my huge GPS report, which took me until 4.30 AM to finish !!! By the time I pushed the "publish" botton I was a zombie.
The next morning I slept until 10 and started to work on the computer again. I also watched the live streaming of the show jumping finals round 1 and some athletics. It brough back memories as the evening before I saw German discus thrower Robert Hartung win gold and in jubilation he tore his short off his muscled body, Hulk Hogan style, then started running and jumped the 100 m hurdles' course! What people do when they win gold :)
I checked my plane ticket as I'll be flying out of London on Friday and I got a cardiac arrest at the moment! I realized that I had booked my return flight on 10 September instead of 10 August. I never made that mistake before! I wanted to change it online, but the website didn't work and I got an error message all the time "can't process your request at the moment." I immediately felt some sweat breaking out on my forehead! I called the SN Brussels Airlines office and was helped by girl. Rebook fee 150 euro! The moment I wanted to give her my credit card number the line got disconnected, so I had to call them all over again, got a new lady on the phone, explain the whole situation again, but it get all settled. Phew!
Round 13.00h I was contemplated either jumping on the tube and visiting Westminster Abby or going to the second round of the show jumping Finals. I decided for the latter, packed my camera with smaller lens and hoped I could photograph some dressage riders at the same time. I walked to the Park and when I wanted to head to the warm up rings, I was stopped by security. "Photographers are no longer allowed to go here." Interesting!! All previous days we were allowed and if you may remember I sat at the crossing from the stabling area to the warm up zone taking photos of the riders and now all of a sudden "photographers" were no longer allowed there. Talk about raising concerns that there is something to hide out there! I think this is bad for the sport to prevent access to the press to all other areas. If you want to present a believable and positive image of the sport than you shouldn't be hiding what you do !! I was thoroughly annoyed, you can imagine!
I went to the main stadium and shot the second jumping round, catching some cool moments during the victory lap. I love the photo I shot of Steve Guerdat looking at his medal in the middle of his lap of honour. I decided to attend the show jumping press conference as well. Even though I didn't take any notes as I wasn't writing an article about it, it was interesting to see how a jumper conference goes. It was much different to those for the dressage riders. More questions were asked at a greater tempo, while the dressage press seems to be more timid. Cian O'Connor was very funny when he told off a Dutch journalist, who had asked him why he had raced his horse to the last fence on which he lost a rail evne though he had a faster time than the silver medal winning Schroder. O'Connor replied something in the likes of "unlike you I don't have the possibility to look at the clock while I'm riding."
Afterwards I went back to my room. Initially I had planned on going out for dinner with a friend, but he had to cancel due to a fever and sore throat. I ate some more bland noodle soup before going back to my self-imposed isolation at Cutty Sark. I was tired from working, but at the same time bored to death of being alone with nothing fun to do nor nobody to hang out with (ouch, that sounds sad!). I chatted a bit with a friend on Skype and decided to lift my spirits by watching the first two episodes of Mad Men Season 5, which I hadn't seen yet. That worked magic for me and I went to bed very happy with the knowledge that tomorrow is my last full day in London! Huray!
by Astrid Appels
Eurodressage On the Scene at the 2012 Olympic Games