Paris 2024 | Dutch dressage team is among the best – but is it good enough for a medal?

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Paris 2024 | Dutch dressage team is among the best – but is it good enough for a medal?

Text: Rick Helmink/Horses.nl

In the autumn of 2023, the Dutch equestrian federation KNHS formulated the ambition to win a team medal in dressage. After the golden years with Anky van Grunsven (with her horses Bonfire and Salinero) and then Edward Gal with Totilas and Adelinde Cornelissen with Parzival, the last team medal was won by the Dutch dressage riders at the World Equestrian Games in Caen (2014).

Dip after Van Grunsven

The Netherlands had top years in dressage with Anky van Grunsven, Edward Gal and Adelinde Cornelissen. For twenty years, from Barcelona 1992 to London 2012, the Dutch dressage riders took home medals at every Games, including several gold ones.

Then came a dip. The Netherlands was still among the top dressage countries, but kept missing out on medals on the world stage.

Dinja van Liere accidentally had a German horse

That changed in 2022 at the World Championships in Herning. There was no team medal, but two individual bronze medals for Dinja van Liere and Hermès.

The year before, 2021, Dinja van Liere made a spectacular advance to the highest level with two horses that she trained all by herself. Such that it surprised the equestrian association KNHS and national coach Alex van Silfhout.

Dinja van Liere was put on the longlist for the Olympic Games halfway through the season and because the association had not taken into account that Van Liere would become so good so quickly, it had not been checked whether everything was in order for the Olympic Games.

Shortly before the last observation match, the federation discovered that Hermès was accidentally registered as a German horse (read: horse of a German owner). This was an administrative error in the database, but it did cost him participation in the Games. The horse must have the same ‘nationality’ as the rider.

From spectator to reserve to captain

With second horse Haute Couture, Van Liere went to the Olympic Games of Tokyo 2020. But as a reserve. Now she is clearly going to Paris 2024 as team captain: at the last competition before Paris, Van Liere scored points (with the same jury members who judge in Paris) that make her eligible for a medal.

For Van Liere, a dream is coming true this year: it is eight years ago that she booked a ticket to Rio de Janeiro, bought a ticket for, among other things, the dressage at the Olympic Games and sat in the stands. On her own. To copy the art.

At that time, Hermès NOP was four years old. Van Liere already calculated in 2016 that Tokyo would come too early with him (actually planned in 2020). This year it happened: not as a spectator, not as a reserve, but as a participant in the Olympic Games. And as a participant with a chance of a medal.

Paris 2024 | Dutch dressage team is among the best – but is it good enough for a medal?

Tokyo 2020 | Edward Gal secures 5th place for the Netherlands with 2826.5 points

Dressage team gets off to a slow start towards Paris 2024

At the beginning of the year it did not look like the Dutch dressage team would be eligible for a team medal. Dinja van Liere made her comeback in competition with Hermès, who had been injured for a long time, in March.

Only Emmelie Scholtens with Indian Rock had a long run-up to Paris: from January to April she went to a competition every month and scored higher every competition. She scored slightly lower in the observation competitions, but the long journey paid off there.

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Tokyo 2020 | Edward Gal in the team competition

Hans Peter Minderhoud and Edward Gal

Hans Peter Minderhoud and Edward Gal (traveling reserve) complete the team with Toto jr and Total US, two sons of the phenomenon Totilas. For years, the two riders forced two places in the Dutch teams at championships. From 2013 to 2021 (Tokyo), Hans Peter Minderhoud and Edward Gal were part of the Dutch team eight times with different horses.

Hans Peter Minderhoud has already competed at four Olympic Games (Beijing 2008, London 2012, Rio de Janeiro 2016 and Tokyo 2020), Edward Gal at three (London, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo).

Minderhoud was not present at the last two championships (World Cup 2022 and European Championship 2023) and Gal took a sabbatical from competitive sport after Tokyo. The men did make a plan for Paris 2024 and that plan worked out well. Minderhoud reported back in the ring in April and Gal in May. At the observation competitions they rode their way to a place in the team.

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Tokyo 2020 | Bronze for Maikel van der Vleuten in individual jumping

Dressage team a real team

A team that national coach Patrick van der Meer is very happy with: “I think this is a super strong team. It may sound a bit unprofessional to talk about a team of friends and the fact that these four get along well had nothing to do with the selection procedure, but now that the team is like this, it really is a very strong club. A warm bath in which everyone can hopefully perform optimally.”

Van der Meer hopes for a medal, but does not dare to formulate that ambition as an absolute goal. “It remains difficult to estimate medal chances. There are only three in the team, everyone can drop out or something can happen to everyone in the test. At the same time, the Paris jury members were in Rotterdam and that gives a good picture. We have at least left our calling card.”

Three Horsemen

Since the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the number of team members per country has been reduced. Previously, a team consisted of four combinations, with one result being deducted. Since Tokyo, teams in all equestrian disciplines consist of three combinations, with each result counting.

All countries are allowed to bring four combinations to Paris, with the national coach being able to decide to deploy the reserve combination (Edward Gal) after the team qualification (the Grand Prix).

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Tokyo 2020 | “Proud of how Beauville is performing here” Maikel van der Vleuten

Format

A total of 60 combinations will start their Olympic dream in the Grand Prix. The Grand Prix is ​​the qualification competition for both the individual competition (FEI Grand Prix Freestyle) and the team competition (FEI Grand Prix Special) and is ridden in six groups (based on FEI rankings), divided over two days. The two best riders per group, supplemented by the next six highest scoring riders, qualify for the Freestyle.

After the Grand Prix, a team qualification ranking is drawn up by adding the three results per team. The best ten teams qualify for the Grand Prix Special, where the team medals are distributed.

Qualify for final

Only the results achieved in the Grand Prix Special count for the team medals. The final score for each team is calculated by adding the final total percentages in the Grand Prix Special of each team member, there is no scratch result.

The eighteen combinations selected for the battle for the individual medals start with a clean slate in the Grand Prix freestyle. The gold goes to the combination that achieves the highest percentage in the freestyle.

WHERE ARE YOU LOOKING?

Eurosport and HBO Max will broadcast the battle for gold, silver and bronze live during Paris 2024. Just like in Tokyo and Beijing, we will bring you all the matches in Paris live with a large team of experts and commentators, with all the emotions, reactions, analyses and backgrounds. Follow our new channel on Whatsapp already?

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