Six-time Paralympian Lee rode a stunning test in the grade II individual competition to claim a “very emotional” gold medal – his 12th Paralympic gold and eighth individual Paralympic gold. Aboard his home-bred 10-year-old gelding Breezer, Lee scored 76.26% to finish almost 3% ahead of silver medallist, Austria’s Pepo Puch with Sailor’s Blue.
Britain’s Georgia Wilson, who took an early lead aboard the seven-year-old Supertramp mare Sakura, secured a brilliant individual bronze at her first Paralympic Games, after scoring 72.76% with a lovely test.
Lee and Breezer’s score was an international personal best for the pair across all three tests, and it was richly deserved. The Bacardi x Metall gelding, who was born in Lee’s parents’ field, is a super classy horse, and he displayed his beautifully loose, flowing paces with impressive overtrack in the walk and plenty of expression in the trotwork. Their test sheet was littered with eights, and they also pulled in nines for their circles, lengthened walk and Lee’s riding.
“I’m very happy; I cried at my second halt at X in the arena. It’s been a long journey, and Breezer is a home-bred horse,” said Lee, who has ridden at every Paralympic Games since Sydney 2000.
Success here was not a foregone conclusion for Lee, though, who was forced to retire Breezer at the final selection trial at Hartpury CPEDI in July after the gelding was upset by something in the arena.
“This is even more special because he’s very sensitive to environments, and at Hartpury I did not complete because of something in the environment there. So that added to the emotion,” said Lee.
“He knew this was a special day and a different day.
“When I heard everybody cheer within the British contingent [after the test], I thought, ‘Is that a cheer for a gold, or a great score, or just because I survived the test’,” he laughed.
“I wanted him to be soft, harmonious yet as powerful as I could make it. I’m really lucky that even though my disability when I walk is very obvious, when I’m in the saddle, I’m lucky that I have brilliant feel and suppleness in my lower back.”
Bronze medallist Georgia described finishing on the podium alongside Lee as “one of these amazing things that not many people can say they have done”.
“I kind of secretly wanted to take a medal home, but I didn’t tell anybody. And I didn’t go into it thinking it would happen,” laughed Paralympic first-timer Georgia, who was a late call-up to the British squad.
Having got off to the ideal start in the Paralympic dressage out in Tokyo, Britain has the potential to add another medal to the collection later today, with defending Paralympic grade V individual champion Sophie Wells in action at 10.20pm (2.20pm UK time) riding Roland Kinch’s Don Cara M.
Britain’s Natasha Baker, also a gold medallist from Rio, and London, will take to the arena in the grade III championship tomorrow riding Joanna Jenson, Christian Landolt and her family’s Keystone Dawn Chorus.
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