Laura Bechtolsheimer took silver in the individual dressage competition at WEG in Kentucky
British dressage supporters are celebrating a second silver medal at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky. Laura Bechtolsheimer, who led the team to a first medal at world level on Tuesday, has now achieved another first for Britain by taking the silver medal in the individual grand prix.
A delighted Laura said: ‘I didn’t hear my mark for a long time as I was too busy telling my horse (Mistral Hojris) he was a legend!’
This is unprecedented success for the sport in this country. ‘It’s a lot more open now,’ explains Laura. ‘It used to be just Isabell (Werth, from Germany) and Anky (Van Grunsven, Holland), but now quite a few of us feel like we have a chance and it makes the sport more exciting.’
Laura, who was born in Germany but educated in Britain, has a further medal chance in the freestyle to music on Friday, but the overwhelming favourite for gold remains Dutch rider Edward Gal, already a double gold medallist, on the phenomenal black stallion Moorlands Totilas.
Meanwhile, the dressage phase of the three-day event competition has started in Kentucky. The British team has been unlucky enough to be drawn first, but the team of Nicola Wilson, William Fox-Pitt, Kristina Cook and Mary King are hugely experienced.
Nicola, who will be first out on Saturday’s cross-country (shown on BBC’s red button), scored 51.2 on Opposition Buzz and admitted to disappointment with the mark. ‘It was hard going first but someone has got to do it and today it was me,’ she said.
‘You just have to go in, be calm and keep your blinkers on. My horse was lovely and very rideable and we haven’t disgraced ourselves. He’s not really built for dressage but is a true trier. I’m looking forward to supporting the others now and to doing our job on Saturday.’
Follow live scoring on www.alltechfeigames.com
The Lottery-funded British Dressage team has exceeded all expectations and thrilled supporters by making history with a first team medal at world level.
The quartet of Laura Becholsheimer, Carl Hester, Fiona Bigwood and Maria Eilberg won the team silver medal at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, USA, last night, finishing second to the favourites, the Netherlands, and, for the first time at this level, in front of defending champions, Germany.
Team anchorwoman Laura Bechtolsheimer, who is based in Cirencester and was a Country Life frontispiece last year, rose superbly to the occasion and scored a personal best of 82.5% on the powerful chestnut Mistral Hojris to clinch the medal, holding off the threats from Germany’s Isabell Werth, an Olympic champion, and the home side’s Steffen Peters, the 2009 World Cup winner.
Laura, who is now a thrilling prospect for the London Olympics in 2012, is expected to win individual medals in the forthcoming grand prix special and freestyle to music classifications – Britain has not won an individual world medal since Jennie Loriston-Clarke took bronze at Goodwood in 1978.
‘We’ve been waiting for a superstar like Laura,’ said Carl Hester, one of Britain’s most talented and popular riders whose score of 72% on Liebling set the team up for a medal. ‘I’m old enough to have been on a team where the best British mark was 66% and we thought that was good, but British dressage has changed. All four of us are happy with our results and also for everyone back home that we’ve finally come good.’
The dressage team’s success will now put pressure on the eventers, whose competition starts tomorrow at the equestrian extravaganza in Kentucky. Germany, the defending champions, are favourites, but an experienced and talented British squad are expected to take it to the wire.
The team of four is likely to comprise Kristina Cook, the reigning European Champion, and Mary King, members of the last British team to win world gold, at The Hague in 1994, plus William Fox-Pitt, whose 13th British cap this is, and the trailblazing Nicola Wilson.
The two individuals, both of whom have medal chances, are expected to be triple Badminton winner Pippa Funnell on the 2012 prospect Redesigned and European silver medallist Piggy French, who happens to be featured in this week’s Country Life (September 29) with her dachshund puppy.
The World Equestrian Games takes place every four years and comprises eight disciplines: dressage, eventing, show jumping, endurance, reining, vaulting, carriage-driving and para-dressage, in which Britain is unbeaten. Follow the action on www.alltechfeigames.com. The eventing cross-country phase will be on BBC’s red button from 2pm on Saturday.