When it comes to dressage events at the Olympics, it appears the road to London goes through Wellington.
Eight equestrians who have competed at numerous horse shows and events in the village over the years are riding for Olympic gold at the Summer Games, including Tina Konyot, 50, a Stuart resident who has been a fixture at Wellington Classic Dressage shows for decades.
"It took me 35 years to get here, but it was worth the wait," said Konyot, a fifth-generation equestrian. "This is my dream and I'm living it."
Konyot and her horse, Calecto V, finished 27th in the individual dressage Grand Prix competition Friday morning at London's Greenwich Park, scoring a 70.456. The U.S. team placed fifth in the team dressage competition with 72.801 points. The top seven teams and top 11 individual riders advance to the Grand Prix Special on Tuesday.
Adrienne Lyle, another veteran Wellington equestrian, is competing in her first Olympics with her horse, Wizard.
At the U.S. dressage news conference on Wednesday, Lyle, 27, said learning her horse has been a real experience.
"He's kind of a hot-tempered horse when you first get to know him, (and) he can be a little standoffish," said Lyle, who placed 35th with 69.468 points on Friday. "But it's been an incredible journey figuring him out and earning his trust."
Noreen O'Sullivan, managing partner and show manager for Wellington Classic Dressage, has worked with most of the riders, including Steffen Peters, who placed sixth with 77.05 points in the individual Grand Prix event.
"Steffen comes to Wellington once a month and does clinics here," O'Sullivan said. "He's such a great statesman for the sport of dressage."
Peters, 47, who was born in Germany but is riding for the U.S. team, runs a horse training and sales facility in California. He was named United States Equestrian of the Year in 2009 and 2010.
Speaking at the dressage news conference, Peters said he wants Olympic watchers to notice how Americans treat their horses.
"There's a ton of pressure, an expectation, a standard, which can easily interfere with the way you train everyday," Peters said. "But the American team is known for true kindness to the horse. That means the world to us."
While O'Sullivan is rooting for the U.S. to do well, she said it's going to be tough.
"Great Britain has an unbelievable team, as do the Germans and the Dutch," O'Sullivan said. "They have their work cut out for them."
Three part-time Wellington equestrians are riding for the U.S. team, with four suiting up for Canada and one for Sweden.
O'Sullivan said she's looking forward to watching them compete.
"I feel like I'm riding with them," she said. "They're our role models and what our amateurs aspire to be. It's great to see our hometown favorites at the Olympics. It gives Wellington riders people to root for and be proud of."
Wellington equestrians competing in the indvidual Gran Prix dressage event at the Olympics
United States: Steffen Peters, Tina Konyot, Adrienne Lyle
Canada: David Marcus, Jacqueline Brooks, Diane Creech, Ashley Holzer
Sweden: Tinne Vilhelmson Silfven
Olympic schedule (all times ET):
Tuesday, 5 a.m.: Open's Individual, Grand Prix Special
Thursday, 7:30 a.m.: Open's Individual, Grand Prix Freestyle finals
Next event: Individual Dressage Gran Prix Special on Tuesday