Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro did it again. A superb performance in the freestyle in Rio earned them their second consecutive individual title, their second medal at this year’s Olympics, and their third gold altogether. To celebrate this combination’s extraordinary achievement, we look back at their history of success.
The early days
Dujardin was born in Enfield, in 1985 and grew up in Hertfordshire. She started riding when she was just two years old and began doing dressage at 13. Success came early for her: by the time she turned 16, Dujardin had won at Hickstead three times. In 2007, she joined Carl Hester’s yard as a groom and the move quickly propelled her to equestrian superstardom — despite a bad fall in 2009 that fractured her skull. Put in charge of a young Valegro, she found her perfect partner: the combination (pictured below at Hickstead in the summer of 2011) first competed together in a grand prix in January 2011, scoring 74%. Soon, they went on to smash all records.
The London Olympics
The pair began by setting a new grand prix special world record when they scored 88.022% at the Hagen CDI4* in April 2012. Selected for the London Olympics, they won the individual gold with a staggering 90.089% (below, left), as well as claiming team gold alongside Carl Hester and Laura Tomlinson. Dujardin was appointed OBE for services to equestrianism (below, right) in the New Year Honours of 2013.
The record-breaking pair
Superlatives quickly became inadequate to describe Dujardin and Valegro’s performance. They took both the grand prix special and the freestyle titles at the FEI European Dressage Championships in Herning, Denmark, in August 2013 with 85.699% and 91.250% respectively (below, left). Named Reem Acra Best Athlete at the FEI Awards in November 2013 (pictured below, right), Dujardin then proceeded to set new standards at the London International Horse Show in Olympia, where she and Valegro posted an exceptional 93.975% in the freestyle in December 2013.
Not resting on their laurels, the two won the Dressage World Cup final in Lyon in April 2014 with a then-record-breaking 87.129% in the grand prix (and 92.179% in the freestyle, below, left) and both individual gold medals at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Caen, Normandy, in August 2014, with 86.120% in the grand prix special and 92.161% in the freestyle (below, right).
When a world record is not enough
Dujardin, who was named Sunday Times & Sky Sports Sportswoman of the Year in November 2014, then went on to break her previous world records by scoring 87.46% in the grand prix and 94.300% in the freestyle at Olympia in December 2014 (pictured below).
Watch Charlotte Dujardin break her own freestyle record at Olympia in December 2014
In 2015, she has won both World Cup title in April (below, left), and the Europeans in August (below, right), despite some serious competition from Germany’s Kristina Broring-Sprehe and Desperados.
Charlotte goes National
In September 2015, Dujardin added one more title to her roster of accomplishments when she became National Champion. The thirty-one-year-old took both the grand prix and freestyle titles, this time aboard Barolo, at the National Dressage Championships at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire, in late September (pictured below).
Olympic champions for the second time
With the National titles also under her belt, Dujardin looked poised set to defend her Olympic title in Rio—and she did. First she and Valegro gave their all to ensure Britain won team silver, then the combination put in a foot-perfect performance in the freestyle, where a superb score of 93.857% saw off competition from Germany’s Isabell Werth and Kristina Bröring-Sprehe to win the individual gold. With Valegro now possibly heading towards retirement, this second Olympic gold is the perfect way for Dujardin to celebrate the partnership with her horse of a lifetime.
Top image: Charlotte Dujardin wins her second consecutive individual gold at the Rio Olympics, by Arnd Bronkhorst / FEI