Britain extended her unbeaten golden run at the Tokyo Paralympics, taking the top spot in the Paralympics dressage team competition by a whisker. Team GB’s three team riders, Lee Pearson, Natasha Baker and Sophie Wells held off the Dutch challenge by just 0.656%.
This time round, gold was far from a certainty, as Britain had lost its aura of invincibility at the previous World and European Championships, when the Netherlands took gold. With a team of inexperienced horses, Britain was aiming for the podium, but the gold was always going to be a bonus given the strength of the other teams.
And it did prove to be a battle between the Dutch and the Brits. But after both Lee (Breezer) and Sophie (Don Cara M) pulled out personal best marks for their respective partnerships, it was up to the Netherlands’ Sanne Voets also to conjure up the test of her life to secure the gold. She did manage to produce a stunning personal best of 78.2%, but Britain had just done enough.
“It was my aim to do my best test ever – for everything to come together at the right time, after working for five years,” said Sanne. “It was almost magical and I loved riding to music. It helps me to focus and I felt my smile just get bigger and bigger.”
Sanne had a tactic for dealing with the pressure of already knowing what mark she had to produce to secure gold for the Netherlands, due to the Brits having completed.
“My biggest goal was to make my horse shine, and give him that spotlight he deserves,” she says. “That helped me focus, and I think that all three of us [Dutch] riders rode the tests we wanted, with no mistakes.”
Paralympics dressage: the fight for medals
The US team (Roxanne Trunnell, Kate Shoemaker and Rebecca Hart) were 5% adrift in bronze. Their individual gold medal-winning Grade I rider Roxanne produced the top score throughout the team tests of 80.321% on Dolton.
Kate Shoemaker produced a lovely test for 71.825% on Solitaer 40, but admitted she was hoping for a better mark.
“I’m disappointed in the score, that it didn’t come in higher as I think it might the best test he’s ever done,” she said. “I wanted the results to be higher for the Paralympic experience, but as far as representing your country it’s a wonderful opportunity – irreplaceable.”
Denmark made a valiant effort to finish just off the podium in fourth, with Tobias Jørgensen producing a fabulous display on his grey mare Jolene Hill to score 79.559. They were 0.028% behind the US.
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