Britain’s Sophie Wells had to settle for silver in today’s grade IV freestyle, as Belgium’s Michele George pipped her to gold by 0.15%.
“I can’t control the judges or what they see,” reasoned Sophie, who nonetheless was “chuffed to bits” with Valerius.
The pair performed a brand new freestyle, set to an original composition, and put everything into their floorplan, with three-time changes, half pirouettes and counter canter.
“It took a lot to get this freestyle ready this year, and he was awesome in there. I really loved riding it,” said Sophie, who won individual gold on Wednesday. “I just want to go in and do it again now.”
Michele George and FBW Rainman were foot perfect in their routine to defend their freestyle title from London. Michele was disappointed not to defend her individual title, having taken silver behind Sophie earlier in the week, but was thrilled to be back on top.
“I needed to do something to show everybody I am the best, so I am proud I have achieved the gold medal.
“I am quite overwhelmed at the moment. ‘Fuchs’ was really working with me in there and I enjoyed every second.”
This will be the last Paralympics for both Valerius and Rainman, as both are now 14.
The line-up was an exact repeat of London, with the Netherlands’ Frank Hosmar finishing in bronze with Alphaville.
But the Dutch had already heard their national anthem ring out across the stadium earlier in the day, when Sanne Voets claimed gold in the grade III freestyle with Demantur. The winning margin was even closer than in the grade IV — just 0.05% separated Sanne and silver medal winner Ann Cathrin Lubbe of Norway.
Sanne has ridden as an individual in Rio and therefore was not part of the bronze medal-winning Dutch team. But this gold makes up for it.
“I believed when we got here that if I do everything right in the freestyle there’s no one who can beat me, and we did everything right today. I think I collapsed when I heard I’d won.”
Britain’s individual rider, Lee Pearson, will contest the grade Ib freestyle this afternoon, followed by Sophie Christiansen and Anne Dunham in the grade Ia and Natasha Baker in the grade II.