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Team gold for a German grande dame

The Germans continue to absolutely dominate in dressage. Isabell Werth is a grande dame with piles of world championships and five Olympic golds, including this new one. Watching her negotiate the grand prix test on her 12-year-old gelding Satchmo, I was struck by her image of confident traditional female in top hat and snow-white stock tie. She was guiding her horse-shaped universe with such complete invisible control that she looked like a statue in a park. We've gotten so used to seeing high profile women like Britney Spears come unglued on TV -- even the spectacle of our U.S. female gymnasts struggling so nakedly with all their emotions and nerves in Beijing -- that it's startling to see a woman who projects such an opposite image.

When the test ended, though, Werth was anything but a statue -- she rained pats on Satchmo's neck and gave the crowd a great big German grin.

Back in the day, our own Robert Dover led the U.S. to four straight bronzes in team dressage, through Athens 2004. But this time around, the best we could do was fourth, even with a solid performance by Steffen Peters and his new mount. Ravel is a magnificent young Dutch-bred stallion -- the commentators were ga-ga over his promise and how laid back he was. But Peters and Ravel didn't have enough mileage yet to prevail over more veteran competitors. And the U.S.'s Debbie McDonald ended with a low score -- her mare Brentina was anything but laid back today.