Team GB claim dressage gold
Great Britain's dressage stars continued the Greenwich Park gold rush on Tuesday and rewrote Olympic history on two fronts.
Barely 24 hours after British showjumpers Nick Skelton, Ben Maher, Scott Brash and Peter Charles won a first Olympic gold for 60 years, the dressage team followed suit.
But Carl Hester, Laura Bechtolsheimer and Charlotte Dujardin are not only Olympic champions, they also journeyed where no other British dressage team had gone before by winning a medal.
Dressage first became an Olympic sport 100 years ago. Britain, though, had never finished higher than sixth in team or individual competitions - until today.
And their triumph was also the 20th British gold medal at London 2012 - the so-called 'golden gold' that eclipsed the host nation's previous best post-war gold haul in Beijing.
As Skelton and company did with Holland yesterday, so the reigning European champions sent a capacity 23,000 crowd wild by emphatically ending Germany's bid to land an eighth successive Olympic team crown.
Four-time Olympian Hester, 45, set the tone for more medal-mania with a grand prix special Olympic record score of 80.571% on Uthopia.
But it stood for just 90 minutes, as his training partner and protege Dujardin posted 83.286% with Valegro to seal Britain's success after Bechtolsheimer and Mistral Hojris scored 77.794%.
The final team scores, which are averaged out over both grand prix and grand prix special phases, saw Britain finish on 79.979%, silver medallists Germany 78.216% and Holland 77.124%.
Dujardin, who is coached by Hester at his Gloucestershire yard, is favourite for Thursday's individual freestyle final, and the grand prix special world record holder's latest performance did nothing to dispute those odds.
For Hester, who has experienced some tough times on the international stage, today's triumph was one to savour.
And it was the culmination of a dream that started when he rode a donkey on the Channel Island of Sark, his birthplace.
"The three of us come from three totally different backgrounds," he said.
"It is amazing that I learnt to balance and ride on a bareback donkey, Charlotte came through the showing world and Laura did everything across all the equestrian disciplines before she took up dressage.
"You don't know when the dream is going to come true, but we've got our dream now. It is the best thing that could happen to our sport.
"My parents aren't horsey - they can't stand horses, actually - so that makes it even more ridiculous that I've ended up on this route.
"Of course you have to have the opportunity and the break, and you have to find your way, but the hard work and dedication has paid off for all three of us in a very different route.
"I woke up at 1.30 in the morning today. I don't know why. I've always been a very relaxed competitor, but I presume it was just the expectation we had today.
"Charlotte and I train together every day. We feed off each other, and we are like a married couple that bicker and fight and argue.
"We have that familiarity around us. People find it weird that it can work, but it does work.
"When she started riding young horses, you could see her developing as time went along.
"It was fairly obvious that Charlotte had the feel of a horse that was going to get her to the top on a very fast road."
Enfield-born Dujardin had never ridden a competitive grand prix test until January last year.
But during the last 19 months, she has set a new grand prix special world record, grand prix and grand prix special Olympic records, a British freestyle record and won Olympic and European gold.
"It is surreal," said Dujardin, who linked up with Hester six years ago after her mother asked him to give her daughter a dressage lesson.
"Even as a small kid I used to ride against my sister, who's two years older than me. I used to beat her and she used to hate it, so she gave up and I carried on.
"I was very successful with the show ponies, I won all the big shows, but I was trained then by a dressage trainer and she always said to me 'why are you doing showing, why aren't you doing dressage?'
"And I was like 'oh no, I don't fancy it'. And then I watched a DVD of Carl doing a dressage demonstration and I loved it.
"Obviously, I only started at grand prix level in January last year, then I got a gold medal at the Europeans and it was the ultimate dream to come here to London and ride here.
"Valegro is a once-in-a-lifetime horse. He is unbelievable, just so very special."
Bechtolsheimer, the German-born granddaughter of a property billionaire, revealed how yesterday's British showjumping success had helped inspire the dressage trio.
"It was such an incredible thing to watch," she said. "It definitely made me think 'right, I want that too'.
"We didn't have a great draw on the first day of competition, and I didn't have the ride of my life on the first day either, but then I thought if we are already in first place, which we were, then it should get easier.
"It was very emotional for me at the end of Charlotte's test when we'd done it.
"It wasn't just about beating the Germans, it was about beating everyone else, which in Olympic history Britain has never done in the dressage."