Britain’s Lee Pearson confirmed his place as king of the Paralympics dressage at the Tokyo Games when he completed a trio of gold medals by taking top spot in the grade II freestyle today. This brings Lee’s total of Paralympic gold medals won across team and individual competitions to an incredible 14.
Piloting his home-bred bay gelding Breezer in a double bridle, Lee put in a test that was notably for its brilliant lift and cadence in the trot and scored 82.447%. The rider admitted he had mixed expectations ahead of the class as the horse became upset in his last freestyle at Hartpury and Lee had to retire.
He explained: “Deep down, I thought we’d perhaps be leaving the arena retired, but then a little bit deeper down, when you dig really deep, I just thought he has brilliant power, he has brilliant paces. And if I don’t muck up then I thought he had a chance of a gold.
“But that was underneath believing that we may have to retire tonight, and speaking to my team and saying, ‘If I do retire tonight, I still love him and he still is amazing’. That’s the horseman in me, it still overrides the desire to win a gold medal, I was still really proud of him. But I’m a little bit more proud of him now he’s won a gold medal and helped me win a gold medal.”
Lee has won medals at every Paralympics stretching back to 2000 and said this was one of the least likely honours: “Breezer can’t help being sensitive, I can’t help being disabled, but we’ve done as much as we possibly can to get him in different environments. You can’t just have a button to say, ‘Don’t be more sensitive but do be more powerful’ – he was like a baby lion in there.”
Lee, who rode to Kung Fu Panda music, said the horse was actually more relaxed than in his previous tests in Japan.
“I’m twice over the moon – I actually didn’t care if I won a medal, that horse gave me his heart in there. He was braver than the team test, braver even than the individual test a few days ago.
“He still was nervous in there and we had a tiny little spook before I entered and I just half halted to say, ‘Daddy’s here’ and just kind of said, ‘Come on, we can do this’. Then halfway through the test I nearly started enjoying it and then I remembered I needed to get to the end before I enjoy it – he was amazing.”
Paralympics dressage freestyle: bronze for Britain’s Georgia Wilson
The results in this Paralympics dressage grade exactly mimicked the individual test earlier in the Games – Lee was chased home by the Austrian former event rider Pepo Puch on Sailor’s Blue (81.007%), with Britain’s Georgia Wilson landing bronze on Sakura with 76.754%. Georgia is trained by team-mate Sophie Wells.
“I used to compete on my little 14.2hh New Forest pony when Soph was on [Rio medallist] Valerius and Lee was on [triple gold Paralympic medal winner] Blue Circle Boy and I was tiny – to be here with them, I just can’t explain what it’s like,” said Georgia.
“I couldn’t do it without Sophie. She calms me down a lot and the training is just invaluable. To be on the podium with Lee and have an incredible athlete like him in my grade, it’s so special.
“I just can’t thank everybody enough for their help and all the team around us and the people that play National Lottery [which funds the World Class programme].”
Georgia was called up from the reserve bench to ride at these Games with her own and her parents Geoff and Julia’s chestnut mare Sakura, who is only seven years old, and the pair put in an active, accurate, neat test today. Sakura came from the Eilbergs less than a year ago.
She said: “So it hasn’t been very long and she’s the kindest mare ever. I could take her anywhere. She could probably come into a hotel and sleep next to me.”
The final Tokyo Paralympics dressage competition, the grade I freestyle, is now underway. There are no British riders in this grade at the Games. The Team GB para dressage medal tally is therefore complete and the Brits go home with incredible eight medals, including team gold.
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