September 15, 2002 — After the excitement of the eventing gold medal, the result of the individual dressage medal competition was a real kick in the tail.
Debbie McDonald had a wonderful musical freestyle on Brentina to a medley of Gershwin tunes. It started off with “I’ve Got Rhythm,” and she certainly did, with a blockbuster beginning of double pirouettes into one-tempis. It also included some new twists, such as two-tempis around a curve. It had a high degree of difficulty, as they say in diving competitions, and there were no mistakes. Let me repeat that, NO MISTAKES.
So what did Debbie wind up with? A score of 82.700. Not bad, you’d say, except Spain’s Beatriz Ferrer-Salat, the darling of the crowd (understandably, considering where we are) got an 82.825 for a rather flat performance.
Also flat, but far more attractive, Farbenfroh with Nadine Capellmann of Germany earned an 83.675.
Worse yet, European Champion Ulla Salzgeber scored 83.775 on Rusty, who is a beautiful mover, but broke noticeably into a canter from the piaffe.
When the overall scores from the Grand Prix, the Special and the Kur were added up, Nadine went to the head of the class on 237.515 to become the new world champion. The Spaniard was the silver medalist on 234.385, while Ulla received the bronze with 233.535. Her mount was also the bronze medalist at the last WEG. Debbie, meanwhile, got 233.460 and the shaft.
Judge Volker Moritz said he thought Brentina started out well, but lacked engagement at the end, suggesting it might be a conditioning problem.
The American contingent here was quite miffed. Despite the elevation to a team silver medal last week, it appears U.S. riders will have to do more than beautiful tests to get into the individual medals, something no American civilian rider has ever done at a World Championship.
“I’m pissed off,” said U.S. Chef de Equipe Jessica Ransehousen. “I thought we had some really wonderful moments.”
She noted, “We felt this was a historical show and the judging was opening up to be far more realistic. I think that really is the way it should be going, but I think there are some hangers-on that get a little nervous when it gets down to the last moment and they have to decide what is safe and maybe, what is right. I think some of them would be far happier being safe.”
Debbie, though disappointed, kept a stiff upper lip.
“I’m ecstatic,” she said. “I have to be. I couldn’t ask more of my horse. I can’t go home feeling bad.”
Lisa Wilcox was fifth with Relevant, who she said was not “quite as fresh as on the Special day.”
Sue Blinks, 10th with Flim Flam, noted her mount was over-awed by the atmosphere of nearly 20,000 applauding Spaniards and the brightness of the lights for the class that ended just before midnight; early for the Spanish lifestyle.
“He was pretty overwhelmed,” she said, “and he didn’t let it go through the whole test. We thought it would pump him up, but he had stage fright.”
Invasor, who didn’t have stage fright, finished sixth for Rafael Soto Andrade of Spain. The gray Spanish-bred horse broke into the high-stepping Spanish walk as he left the dressage ring. Judges had prohibited Spanish horses from doing the Spanish walk in the dressage ring, but once he exited, Rafael and his mount made the most of their procession down to the outgate.
The crowd screamed and clapped, then stamped like a riot of Flamenco dancers. Rafael ended by clapping for himself, as he dropped the reins over the neck of his horse. Now that’s entertainment.