‘He still amazes me every day’: Reigning world and European champion takes first Paralympic individual title

  • Dutch rider Sanne Voets has claimed her first Paralympic dressage individual title with a winning score of 76.58% for her test with Demantur at the Tokyo Games.

    Sanne and the 13-year-old Vivaldi son have won gold in the very competitive grade IV individual championship, ahead of Brazil’s Rodolpho Riskalla with Don Henrico in silver and Belgium’s Manon Claeys with San Dior 2 in bronze. 

    Sanne looked as though she meant business as she entered the arena, and she and Demantur produced a faultless performance at the Baji Koen Equestrian Park. The gelding is not the flashiest horse, but is very pleasing to watch, maintaining a consistent, open frame and showing off his gloriously rhythmic and uphill canter. They scored at least one 7.5 or above for almost every movement.

    Accuracy is highly rewarded in Paralympic dressage, and Sanne set up every movement expertly, riding balanced canter loops and smart transitions, and was rewarded by marks of 8.5 for her riding skill. Her smile grew bigger as she neared the finale, and she punched the air at her final halt. As their score – close to their international personal best in this test – flashed up on the boards, Sanne dissolved into tears.

    “My face pretty much told it all – I’m over the moon with him,” said Sanne. “He still amazes me every day.

    “When you are sitting on a horse like that, there’s no way you cannot smile and you cannot enjoy your test. He felt really powerful, but in a soft way, in a very smooth contact and he just kept going uphill throughout the test.

    “Demantur also travelled here really well. He’s happy, and fit, and relaxed. Of course you’re here to to perform at your very best, and you want to win medals but in our sport, there’s always one thing more important than the result, and that’s your horse and him being happy.”

    Sanne, 34, is aiming to achieve the elusive “triple-triple” in Tokyo, having topped the individual and freestyle classes at both the World Equestrian Games in 2018 and the 2019 Europeans – and they were on the winning team on both occasions. She and Demantur claimed freestyle gold at the Rio Paralympics in 2016, but narrowly missed out on a medal in the individual championship, finishing fourth, which will have no doubt made her even hungrier for success in this test here. 

    As well as starting as favourite to win the Paralympic dressage individual title, Sanne is also hotly tipped to take the freestyle title with a new routine, while the Netherlands have a very good chance of taking the team gold medal – though will face strong challenge from the USA and Britain in particular.

    Rodolpho collected his first Paralympic medal, with a silver to add to his pair of individual silvers at the World Equestrian Games in 2018, also with his Tokyo ride, the 18-year-old Don Frederico stallion Don Henrico. They produced a flamboyant, attractive test with a particularly lovely canter section to score 74.66%.

    “I’m really happy and the horse was super,” said Brazilian Rodolpho. “When you can go in there and you can deliver what you prepare – we always say we want more and we want better, but everybody has worked a lot to be here and it’s hard work. When you can go in and do almost every single thing as planned, then it’s super fun and I’m super happy.”

    Manon added to the silver and bronze medals she won at the 2019 Europeans at this, her first Paralympic Games. She and the Stedinger x De Niro gelding San Dior 2 posted 72.85% to clinch the bronze over Sweden’s Louise Etzner Jakobsson.

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