Sophie Wells faces strong challenge from Belgium’s Michele George as she prepares to defend Paralympic title

  • Britain’s Sophie Wells will face a strong challenge in her bid to defend to her individual Paralympic dressage title at the Tokyo Games.

    Belgium’s Michele George set the bar extremely high early in the grade V class, taking the provisional gold medal position with the 11-year-old mare Best Of 8 on a hefty score of 76.52%. Currently in provisional silver is Germany’s Regine Mispelkamp and Highlander Delights, who scored 73.19%.

    Michele rode a very stylish, mistake-free test with the Bonifatius daughter, whom she has been competing since 2019. They pulled in big marks across the board, with particular highlights being their half-passes, the simple changes on the centre line, and their very smart halt and rein-back. Michele threw her hands up in the air with delight as her huge score was announced, knowing that the podium was within reach.

    “I really enjoyed the ride and even if the result isn’t a medal today, I’m really proud of my mare,” said Michele. “This is for me the most important thing: that I could come home and say I’ve done everything I could. She had a beautiful performance – she gave the best of herself, so I’m really, really happy.

    “I think she did great half-passes, and had a very nice extended canter as well. There were many highlights for me – the feeling overall was good.

    “A medal would mean the world to me because it’s been a year full of stress and full of questions,” she added.

    Sophie and Michele traded Paralympic dressage podium places at Rio in 2016, with Sophie winning the individual title and Michele the freestyle. Now, five years later, they remain rivals and will both be hungry for gold medals in Tokyo. Also hotly tipped to reach the podium is the Netherlands’s Frank Hosmar with Alphaville, European gold medallists in 2019.

    Sophie is set to ride her up-and-coming horse Don Cara M, who was swapped into the British squad at the 11th hour to replace her multi-medalled C Fatal Attraction. She will enter the arena with Roland Kinch’s Don Jovi gelding at 10.20pm local time (2.20pm UK time), and will be hoping to add to Britain’s medal haul already accumulated today in the Paralympic dressage by Lee Pearson and Georgia Wilson.

    Ireland’s Tamsin Addison was also in action in the grade V individual, riding Fahrenheit at her first Paralympic Games, and scoring 66.45%.

    “He was a good boy and he didn’t do anything wrong. I could have asked a little bit more and I could have been a bit more ambitious, but I was pleased with him,” said Tamsin. “I should have put a little more power in places, especially in the middle, but we didn’t make any mistakes.

    “It’s a fine line; you want it all on the night, in that six minutes you’ve been training for for years, and it’s very easy to override it, which is something I have been guilty of in the past.”

    You may also be interested in…

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.

    You may like...