British dressage team chosen for Beijing Paralympic Games

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Seven Para-Equestrian Dressage riders will be representing Britain at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, which take place on 6-17 September at the Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong. They are:

Grade Ia

  • Sophie Christiansen riding the Para Dressage Training Trust’s Lambrusco III

  • Anne Dunham riding Sally Ann Brown’s Teddy

Grade Ib

  • Ricky Balshaw riding his own and Mrs Julia Lazzari’s Deacon’s Giorgi

  • Lee Pearson riding his own, Mr & Mrs David Pearson and Gillian Chinn’s Gentleman

Grade II

  • Felicity Coulthard riding her own Roffelaar

Grade III

  • Deborah Criddle riding her own and Bruce Criddle’s Pavaroti

  • Simon Laurens riding John Gamlin’s Ocean Diamond

The squad combines youth and experience, with Lee Pearson set to make his third ParalympicsGB team appearance and Anne Dunham her fourth. Six-time Paralympic gold medallist Lee has never been beaten at a Paralympic Games and Anne Dunham, at 59, is likely to be one of Britain’s oldest athletes for Beijing. Deborah Criddle will also be contesting her third Games and she will be hoping to build on her triple gold at Athens in 2004.

Lee Pearson says: “You can never take selection as a given and I am sdelighted to be nominated to go to my third Paralympics. I’m really looking forward to it. Gentleman is a young horse but he has been brilliant over the selection trials. The hard work really starts now though and I want to wrap him up in cotton wool.”

Paralympic Games bronze medallist in 2004, 20-year-old Sophie Christiansen is returning to the ParalympicsGB team for her second Games, while Ricky Balshaw, 21, Simon Laurens, 40, and Felicity Coulthard, 24, are all making their Games debuts this summer.

Simon Laurens says: “I’m absolutely ecstatic and can’t quite believe it! Since my first prelim competition two years ago, to the World Championships last summer, it’s been an absolute whirlwind, but this is the ultimate. I always hoped that Ocean Diamond would be destined for Hong Kong, he’s such a great little horse and really deserves to go.”

Para-Equestrian Dressage team manager David Hunter says: “It’s been an extremely competitive period, all the selectors have been impressed by the standard — it certainly hasn’t been an easy job. I am confident we have a strong team with an excellent support crew behind them that will be as well prepared as possible in three months time.”

The reserve riders and horses are:

  • Joanne Pitt riding Mr & Mrs Robert Pitt’s Estralita

  • Nicola Tustain riding the Berkeley Group’s Rivaldo
  • Sophie Wells riding Nicola Wells’ Touchdown II
  • The Para Dressage Training Trust’s Nairobi
  • John Gamlin’s Ocean Don Jon