LONDON, England (AFP) — Great Britain's Charlotte Dujardin won individual dressage gold with a record score yesterday to cap a golden Olympics for the hosts' equestrians at Greenwich Park.
Dujardin beat Adelinde Cornelissen of the Netherlands with Laura Bechtolsheimer, also of Britain, taking the bronze. They were Britain's first ever medals in the event.
Dujardin lived up to her favourite's status on Valegro with a massive score of 90.089 per cent, with Dutch rival Cornelissen on 88.196 and Bechtolsheimer on 84.339.
The all-female podium was a fitting way to mark the 60th anniversary of women riders becoming eligible to compete at the Olympics.
Dujardin's show-stealing performance in front of an ecstatic 23,000 capacity-crowd was a new Olympic record, smashing the previous mark of 86 per cent set by Cornelissen.
The 27-year-old reflected: "I wanted to go out today and not have any regrets, and even though Valegro was tired he didn't let me down, he gave his all.
"Tonight we're all going off to celebrate on a boat on the Thames, we'll probably sink it!"
Dujardin's win brought the curtain down on a sensational Games for the British equestrian team.
On Monday their show jumpers led by Nick Skelton won their first team gold in 60 years, followed 24 hours later by Dujardin, Bechtolsheimer and Carl Hester winning an historic team dressage title.
Last week the three-day eventing team, featuring Zara Phillips, granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II, picked up silver behind Germany.
Dujardin has made a rapid rise through the dressage ranks in the 18 months since she made her debut on the international stage.
But she had to conjure up the routine of her short career to see off Cornelissen, who was occupying the gold medal position after a polished performance on Parzival.
And with total silence descending over the arena, Dujardin, last of the 18 riders to go, did just that, floating and dancing over the sun-kissed sand to music from the James Bond film Live And Let Die, The Great Escape, and the chimes of Big Ben.
Dujardin's career took off when she linked up with Hester who became her mentor.
And Hester, who came in fifth on Uthopia, was thrilled with his protegee's display.
The 45-year-old said: "To get three (British) horses into the top five of the Olympics is fantastic. It is all down to the management — we have had so much back-up."
Equine ballet, as dressage freestyle has been described, involves the top-hat-and-tailed rider instructing the horse with barely perceptible movements to demonstrate obedience, relaxation and agility.
Among the moves are piaffe, where the horse appears to be dancing on the spot, half-pass, a trot diagonally across the arena, and passage, where the horse trots as if walking on egg shells.
Each routine, set to music, lasts around six minutes and is assessed by judges sitting in wooden cabins around the arena, who award marks on technical and artistic merit.
One rider who has mastered the discipline is Dutch dressage legend Anky van Grunsven, who was aiming for a fourth consecutive gold on Salinero, her trusted 18-year-old for whom retirement now beckons after taking sixth.