Britain leads Paralympic dressage team standings overnight

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Britain’s hopes of another team dressage gold are well on track after stellar Paralympic performances. After two out of four days of team dressage, the British team are well ahead of their nearest rivals. The three best British scores equal 234.353. Second placed Germany are on 215.979 with Denamrk (213.628) close behind. In percentage terms, Germany is averaging 71.993% while Britain is on 78.117%.

At grade 1a, the class for the most disabled athletes, Britain’s Sophie Christiansen and Janeiro 6 (pictured) posted a massive personal best of 83.765% with a fluent, smooth test.

“I’m thrilled with my percentage for the team,” she said, beaming. “I’ve been getting 80s in the past few months but to do it at an Olympics Games is more than I could ask for.

“You can’t ask for a better horse with a better temperament,” said Sophie, who punched the air on hearing her score. “You can’t prepare for this, because no one has 10,000 people to hand, but I knew ‘Rio’ would be like he is at home.”
Sophie will have a long wait after her test on Sunday as she has been drawn first to go.

Another better bested
Sophie Wells, first to go of today’s three British team riders, slapped herself as her grade IV score of 75.906% was announced.

“I don’t cry!” she said through tears. “You don’t know what they’re going to do out there – we do the familiarisation but it’s not the arena [that affects the horses], it’s the crowd.”

Her final halt was still, square and engaged; from side on, only two of Pinocchio’s four patent black hooves were visible and it was rewarded by a 9.2 average from the five judges.

Having stepped up the tempo of Pinocchio’s trot, Sophie was taking a risk, but it paid off and she posted a new international personal best on Jackie Walker’s impressive chestnut.

Women of the world
At grade III, Germany’s Hannelore Brenner triumphed with the hot Walt Disney daughter Women Of The World. Her 75.741% proved too high for Britain’s Deb Criddle to match.

Hannelore, who had a cross-country accident in 1986 which resulted in incomplete paraplegia, said: “She a sensitive mare and can be hysterical, but in there she was wonderful and with me from the beginning.”

Second placed Deb, who admitted she rode a “safe” test to chalk up a solid team score, said: “None of us wants to be on the first team that doesn’t bring home gold.”

On her 72.926% score, she added: “It would have been nice to break the 73% barrier, but you can’t have everything.”

What’s next?
Tomorrow (Saturday) sees the first of two days of individual championships tests, which also decide the team medals. Monday and Tuesday see all riders go as individuals in the freestyle to music.