‘We’ll be hungry in Tokyo’: British para team claims silver with new-look line-up

Britain’s para dressage riders have finished in a comfortable silver medal position at the European Para Dressage Championships, despite fielding a team featuring three championship first-timers.

The quartet of Sophie Wells and championship debutantes Mari Durward-Akhurst, Nicky Greenhill and Georgia Wilson exceeded expectations, all producing excellent scores in the team test to take silver behind home side the Netherlands, who have added a European gold to their World Equestrian Games title from 2018. Denmark clinched the bronze medal, edging out Belgium by 0.4%.

“Historically we’ve been the strongest team but other nations have put money and time into developing and we will be hungry to hunt them down in Tokyo,” said Sophie, for whom this is a 10th team medal for Britain.

Individual silver medal winners Georgia and Midnight were the first pair to kick off Britain’s charge, scoring 74.76% in the grade II team test on Friday (23 August). The same day, Mari posted a well-timed personal best of 70.89% with Sky O’Hara to contribute another valuable score and keep the team well in the hunt overnight.

A grade V score of 75.65% for individual silver medal winners Sophie Wells and C Fatal Attraction boosted Britain’s silver medal chances, with Nicky Greenhill and King Edward IV posting 69.58% in the grade IV.

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Dutch combination Sanne Voets and Demantur Rs2 NOP kept the Netherlands’ dream of a second consecutive gold alive with a stunning personal best performance in the grade IV, posting 77.15%. With all other team riders — Frank Hosmar, Nicole den Dulk and Rixt van der Horst — achieving in excess of 73%, the home side scored a resounding victory, consolidating their place as the new world leaders of para dressage.

“We didn’t feel more pressure this year exactly, but winning silver would have felt like we’d lost something,” said Frank. “Once we had won gold we wanted it again!”

Don’t miss next week’s issue of H&H for extensive coverage from the European Dressage, Para Dressage and Showjumping Championships, out 29 August.