Rookie international para rider Natasha Baker (pictured) justified her selection for her first ever Paralympic Games by claiming gold in the individual grade II championship test on the third day of action at London’s Greenwich Park.
She and Cabral’s smooth, flowing test was rewarded with 76.875% – enough to keep their nose just ahead of second placed Britta Napel (Aquilina 3) from Germany by 0.809%.
“I get a post box and stamps!” said a delighted Natasha after the medal ceremony. “From the age of 10 I said I’d come to a Paralympics and win gold – I’m so proud.
“When I was little people always asked me what I wanted to do and I said riding. Then they said, ‘OK, what do you really want to do?'”
After an early draw, Natasha had an agonising wait to see if her main rivals could touch her. Two judges placed the German above Natasha.
“I’ve literally got no nails left,” she added.
Double Olympic dressage gold medallist Charlotte Dujardin, who sent Natasha a good luck text message before the class, said: “What an amazing result, I hope she enjoys every minute of it. She doesn’t let her disability get in her way – my tummy feels just like it did when I won, I’m so excited for her.”
Silver for Pearson
There was at grade Ib; Lee Pearson (Gentleman) was beaten for the first time ever in his long Paralympic career, scoring 75.391% to Australian Joann Formosa’s 75.826%.
“This has been my goal all my life – I’ve dreamt about this,” said Joann, who has had two serious riding accidents which have left her partially paralysed.
Asked what it felt like to be the first person in history to beat Lee at a Paralympics, she said: “I don’t know, but when the bubble bursts I’ll probably pass out.”
Lee was magnanimous in defeat and praised her and “clockwork” test on the petite stallion Worldwide PB.
He added: “We’re in a strong position for team gold and we’ve got the freestlyle to go, and I’d like to redeem myself there.”
Bronze position went to one of the most popular foreign competitors here, former four-star event rider Pepo Puch – he scored 75.043%
Tomorrow (Tuesday) sees the second and final day of individual championship tests (grade Ia, III and IV). The results from these tests, combined with the team test results, also decide the team placings. Monday and Tuesday are freestyle days where all riders start with a clean sheet and compete for another set of medals.