For some, it was about retaining the title, for others it was about reclaiming it and for a select few, it was a whole new experience with the added bonus of their home nation cheering them on.
Retaining the title…
Sanne Voets (NED) and Sara Morganti (ITA) both retained their Para Dressage Freestyle World titles in Grades I and IV respectively for the third successive time at the Orifarm Healthcare FEI Para Dressage World Championship 2022, in Herning (DEN) today. They did so in the same venue at which they both won their first major international titles nine years ago, at the FEI European Championships of 2013, at which Voets won the silver in the Individual test, and gold in the Freestyle, while Morganti secured the bronze medals in both those tests.
On Royal Delight, Italy’s Freestyle queen Sara Morganti danced to a score of 80.653% to take gold in Grade I ahead of Latvia’s Rihards Snikus with 78.400% on King of the Dance. Just a whisker away from that, by 0.013%, was Ireland’s Michael Murphy, who was able to finally put the lid on a disappointing Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games with another bronze in Herning, on Cleverboy, with 78.387%.
Just after her score was announced, Sara said: “I can’t believe it, it’s just too beautiful to be true. I am delighted for three times in a row with Royal Delight. It really felt good with the music for the whole of the time. I couldn’t have wanted more from this performance in this moment.
Having first won the title at the FEI World Equestrian GamesTM in Caen (FRA) in 2014, Voets rode Demantur RS2 N.O.P. to score 82.485% in this year’s Grade IV competition.
The silver medal went to a delighted Kate Shoemaker (USA), on Quiana with 80.275% while Brazil’s Rodolpho Riskalla edged the bronze medal on Don Henrico, with 78.385%. His medal had extra emotion being his last ride on the soon to retire Don Henrico after a partnership which saw them pick up two World and a Paralympic silver medal, and two further bronzes here.
“Usually I think of something to say when I get off the horse and come here but I’m pretty much speechless today,” Sanne said.
“There are a few moments in your career where you just enter the arena and raise your hand and from that moment on you are just in another dimension and don’t really experience what’s going on in that moment. Today was one of those days.”
Denmark celebrates home successes
Katrine Kristensen and Tobias Thorning Joergensen (DEN) delighted their home fans by taking the Freestyle titles in Grades II and III, prompting a sea of red and white Danish flags to be waved around the arena in celebration.
Katrine set the ball rolling by winning the Grade II Freestyle riding Goerklintgaards Quater to music dominated by Queen songs, and scoring 80.354%. Great Britain’s Lee Pearson and Breezer took the silver with 77.860%, while his teammate Georgia Wilson won a delightful but surprise bronze medal with Sakura, and 75.834%.
Speaking after her win was confirmed, Katrine said:
“It’s very exciting and I’m so, so happy with my second gold medal. It’s fantastic. It has been an amazing experience for me with this new horse and he has developed through the days of the championships. I’m so, so proud.”
In the Grade III contest, a world record 86.513%, on Joline Hill, put Tobias nearly 10 points clear of the silver medal, which went to The Netherlands’ Lotte Krijnsen, on Rosenstolz with 76.673%. And breaking her World Freestyle jinx, Great Britain’s Natasha Baker took the bronze, on Keystone Dawn Chorus, with 76.620%
“It was amazing,” Tobias said.
“Pretty much everything just worked out as it should and I’m just so happy. It was a personal best by two points and it was amazing to do that. Everything worked as I wanted.”
George seals third world title to round off magical day
Belgium’s Michèle George reclaimed the Grade V Freestyle title she last won at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ in 2014. On her amazing mare, Best of 8, she scored 82.860% for gold. Frank Hosmar (NED) once again performed to a medley of 80s pop classics to take the silver, on Alphaville N.O.P. with 80.775% - his best score at a World, European, or Paralympic competition - while Great Britain’s Sophie Wells was third, on Don Cara with 79.255%.
“I think it’s a personal best with the mare. I am so proud of her,” said Michèle.
“She behaved like a queen and it was very difficult to ride but I managed it and it was really dancing. And that’s why we ride horses, to become two in one and to feel the harmony, and I tried to convince the judges and apparently it worked.”
This was her ninth World or Paralympic title. “I’m so happy I can do this again with another horse,” she added, “because it’s not always easy. It’s not easy to get to the top, and it’s more difficult to stay there. But I’m back, and this is only the start.”
Denmark tops the Para Dressage medals table!
At the end of a brilliant World Championship week for Para Dressage, Denmark has topped the medal’s table with four golds and a silver. The Netherlands are second, with three golds, three silvers and a bronze, with Belgium in third place securing two golds.
Bettina De Rham, the FEI’s Director of Dressage, Para Dressage and Vaulting summed up the week and said:
“I think it’s been a very special event. Some athletes said the Team medal ceremony in the main stadium was the best moment of their Para Dressage life, so we’re very happy about that. And today we saw some amazing Freestyles, the level is really going up and we can be very proud of our athletes and look forward to the future.”