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Britain's Dujardin wins individual dressage gold

By MARGARET FREEMAN,

Associated Press

Updated August 9, 2012

(AP Photo/David Goldman)

LONDON (AP) Charlotte Dujardin of Britain won the individual dressage gold medal Thursday on Valegro, scoring 90.089 percent in the deciding grand prix musical freestyle which featured Olympic theme music and chimes from Big Ben.

Adelinde Cornelissen of the Netherlands, riding Parzival, won silver, while Laura Bechtolsheimer of Britain on Mistral Hojris took the bronze. World Cup champion Cornelissen scored 88.196 and Bechtolsheimer had 84.339.

"I love doing the freestyle and I had great fun," Dujardin said. "Valegro felt tired but he gave me his all. He's only 10 years old and he's given me three amazing rides here."

Dujardin and Cornelissen both broke the Olympic record score for a freestyle, set at 85.825 by Dutch rider Anky van Grunsven and Salinero in 2004. Cornelissen picked music from "Nutcracker Suite" and Bechtolsheimer music from "The Lion King" to highlight their horses' best athletic attributes.

"Parzival felt great, and it was one of his best tests ever," said Cornelissen, the current World Cup champion.

Britain also won team gold in dressage earlier this week, beating Germany and the Netherlands. The three medals, including two golds, were the first Olympic dressage medals ever won by Britain.

"Wait for me," Dujardin called to Valegro as she dismounted after the medal ceremony and he started for the barn without her.

She planted a kiss on his nose and then went back to wave her medal to the crowd with a tear-streaked face and huge grin.

The 27-year-old Dujardin started competing internationally only last year but made an immediate impact in a sport where years of competitive experience usually make the difference on the medals podium.

"I wanted to do Alf justice today," said Bechtolsheimer, using her horse's pet name. "I wanted to enjoy the atmosphere in front of so many fans. He's 17 years old and may not do another championship."

Earlier in the day, Dutch rider Anky van Grunsven and Salinero, winners of gold in the two previous Olympics, thrilled the crowd with the horse's farewell Olympic appearance, scoring 82.00 to finish seventh, an excellent score for an older horse.

"I'm proud of him that he's 18 years old and showed that he still belonged here," Van Grunsven said.

American rider Steffen Peters did not have as successful a swan song for his last competitive ride on Ravel. The former World Cup winners made a series of small mistakes to score 77.286 and finish 17th, although they had qualified in seventh place going into the final.

"He was distracted and kept looking around," Peters said. "This was a glitch today. I'll remember him instead for his wonderful career."

Peters was the sole U.S. rider to move into the individual competition after the team event earlier in the week.

During the team competition, Ann Romney, wife of U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney, flew to London to watch the horse she co-owns compete here. Rafalca, ridden by Jan Ebeling, finished 28th out of the 50 horses entered.

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