It was a euphoric day in Rio for British para dressage, with Sophie Christiansen and Natasha Baker each winning individual gold, Anne Dunham taking silver and Britain claiming overall team honours.
This is the sixth consecutive Paralympic team title the Britain has won, having won gold at every Paralympic Games to have featured dressage, beginning in Atlanta in 1996.
No one could topple the British riders all day, with Sophie Christiansen scoring a massive 78.21% on Athene Lindebjerg to retain her individual grade Ia title from London. Anne Dunham secured the silver medal behind her teammate, posting 74.34% aboard the Knabstrupper stallion Lucas Normark.
“I honestly couldn’t have done any more. Athene was so relaxed and with me,” said Sophie.
Despite a totally focused test, Athene had a big spook coming out of the arena, although Sophie wasn’t fazed: “It was fine to do it after the test! Athene is such a sweetie — she was scared but she knows she still has to look after mummy.”
With Sophie Wells collecting grade IV gold yesterday and Natasha Baker winning the grade II individual championship earlier today, Britain finished the team competition on a final score of 453.3 — a full 20 marks out in front. The tightest battle was for silver, with Germany edging out the Netherlands by just three points.
“One horror all of us had was the idea of being on the first team that doesn’t actually win the gold medal,” said Anne, for whom this is a fifth Paralympic gold. “But we won it, and we won it in style. We’ve shown that we are the best prepared, best trained squad in the world. We’ve shown it again and hopefully we’ll go on to show it in future.”
British chef d’equipe Sarah Armstrong added: “We couldn’t have wished for a better result. Since London everybody has upped their game and we are very aware that there are other nations delivering sterling performances who are on our heels. We’ve got to keep looking for the tiny things that can make the difference and that has really been our focus over the past nine or ten months.”
Brazil’s Sergio Oliva gave the home crowd something to cheer about, winning the bronze medal with Coco Chanel on 73.82%.
”I’ve worked hard for more than 12 years to get this bronze medal so for me it means gold,” said Sergio. “To get a medal in my home country is amazing. I don’t have any words. I love this. I love this moment. This is a dream.”
All five of Britain’s riders have qualified for the freestyle tomorrow, which will begin at 1pm BST. The team medal ceremony will also take place tomorrow.
More information about how to follow the Paralympic dressage can be found here, and don’t forget to stay tuned to the H&H website for the latest news, results and scores.