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Bring on Paris: ‘so much more to come’ from Charlotte Dujardin and Gio  

With two medals in Tokyo Dujardin is now Britain’s most decorated female Olympian

After becoming Britain’s most decorated female Olympian equestrian star Charlotte Dujardin admitted she was “a bit speechless”. A bronze in the team dressage moved the 36-year-old level with rower Katherine Grainger and tennis player Kathleen McKane Godfree on five Olympic medals. Then a second bronze at Tokyo 2020, this time in the individual dressage, saw her go one clear at the top of all-time list.

With three golds, one silver and two bronze medals from three Olympic appearances, Dujardin has earned her place among the greats. Joining an exclusive club of British six-time medallists, alongside Steve Redgrave, only cycling’s Bradley Wiggins, Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny have won more.

“I can’t believe it,” she said. “To be level with Katherine Grainger was pretty impressive but now I’ve actually beaten it, oh my God. I’m incredibly proud and a bit speechless. I just don’t know what to feel.”

‘Desire for perfection’

Dujardin didn’t have the privileged upbringing that many might expect, The Times reports. She left school at 16 and her big break came in 2007 when six-time Olympian Carl Hester gave her a job as a groom at his stables. 

Hester, who won bronze in Tokyo alongside Dujardin and Charlotte Fry in the team dressage, said his protégé has been a “catalyst for a lot of change in our sport”. Speaking to The Telegraph, he added: “Winning gold in London 2012 as this young girl from a totally normal background, working as a groom for me - it made our sport open to the public and helped people to understand that dressage isn’t just someone getting on an expensive horse and steering it around. It has gone to a new level, and Charlotte has influenced that with her desire for perfection.”

In Tokyo Charlotte Dujardin won two bronze medals riding Gio

In Tokyo Charlotte Dujardin won two bronze medals riding Gio

Julian Finney/Getty Images

A new partnership

At London 2012 Dujardin won gold in the individual and team dressage events, then in Rio five years ago she won individual gold and team silver. Those four medals came on Valegro, who she called her “horse of a lifetime”. The pair smashed every dressage world record possible.  

In Japan she has formed an equally-impressive partnership with young horse Gio, who had just three international Grand Prix starts under his belt prior to travelling to Tokyo. In the individual dressage the “pint-sized” ten-year-old gelding was competing in only his second freestyle to music, and against far more experienced competition, The Times reports. 

Despite his inexperience, Gio “didn’t make a mistake”, Dujardin said. “What he has done is phenomenal. It’s as good as previous Olympics, it is as good as a gold medal. A horse that has such little experience. I feel so emotional. He had no idea what he was doing, but he just goes in there and does it.”

Gio’s going to be a ‘superstar’

At only 36, Dujardin is a “youngster in this sport”, The Telegraph said. And if she continues to compete for another 20 years “her record could be untouchable”. 

When asked about the Paris Olympic Games in three years’ time, Dujardin predicted more great things for the horse also known as “Pumpkin”. “Gio is green still, there is so much more to come,” she said. “He’s ten years old and look what he’s done. He’s going to be a superstar. When you’ve had a horse like Valegro it’s very difficult to find another to follow him, but in my head I know I can do it again. 

“We’ve got three years until Paris and I know the medal is not going to be this colour, it’s going to be another colour. Bring it on. I cannot wait.”

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