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
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
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
“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.