A thrilling grand prix special competition came to a nail biting conclusion at the Windsor European Dressage Championships 2009. Personal bests, world and British records fell as the dressage giants battled it out for supremacy on the first day of the individual competition. Right in the mix Britain's Laura Bechtolsheimer with Mistral Hojris rode the test of her life to claim the bronze medal on 80.08% and in the process saw off the Dutch from a straight sweep.
The Netherland's Olympic Champion Anky van Van Grunsven, piled on the pressure with a 77.917% score, which was immediately bettered by her team mate Edward Gal who recorded a massive 83.042%. It was Laura's job to follow the black talent, Moorlands Totilas into the arena and hold her nerve amidst the atmosphere - which she did in style, breaking the British record for an international grand prix special and assuring herself of a medal in the process.
Laura had done all she could and it was only the final Dutch rider Adelinde Cornilessen that could decide the eventual colour of that medal. A phenomenal end to the competition saw Cornilessen with the 12 year old chestnut gelding Parzival break a world record score and take the gold in emphatic style with 84.042%.
Edward Gal finished in silver and Britain's Laura Bechtolsheimer claimed the bronze. She commented: "I went into the arena more determined than I've ever been; it was without doubt the best test I've ever ridden and my horse gave me everything. He's a talented horse and I knew I had a chance but to actually manage it is just amazing. Sporting history has been made and to be part of it on home turf is very very special. I'm still a bit shaken up."
International judge Stephen Clarke, president of the ground jury commented on the significance of today's results: "I've never seen sport like it; this is one of the greatest moments in dressage history! We've never seen riders performing at such a high level, and the courage of the riders to perform under such pressure was outstanding."
Combined with the team silver from yesterday's grand prix, Bechtolsheimer's individual bronze replicates the success of the British team in Lipica in 1993 as the best ever result by a British team at a European Championships.
The competition concludes on Saturday evening with the Freestyle competition, the best 15 going through to the final stage. Three British combinations are through to ride in the final stage of the competition; Emma Hindle, Carl Hester and Laura Bechtolsheimer.
FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS