Yesterday saw the Great British para-equestrian dressage team, being awarded with a further four medals on day eight of the Rio Paralympic Games. Natasha Baker (Grade II) and Sophie Christiansen (Grade Ia) both defended their Paralympic titles from London 2012, whilst a British one-two in the Grade Ia, saw Anne Dunham clinch Silver.
First to enter the arena yesterday for Great Britain was Natasha Baker riding Cabral where they produced a stunning test to achieve a score of 73.400%. She had a long and anxious wait after her test, while the other Grade II riders rode their test before she knew she had claimed the gold medal.
“I’ve had such a good year, a couple of days ago he (Cabral) had a massive spook so I didn’t reach my full potential. I had a little pep talk with him before we went in and said trust me, we can do this, and we did. He’s my best friend, he’s my soul mate and I couldn’t love him more. He is just the best horse in the world. We’ve just got such an amazing team around us, and to have the support of the National Lottery, we’re just in a really good position at the moment,” said Natasha.
Behind Natasha in the Grade II section was The Netherlands, with Demi Vermeulen (Burberry) and Rixt Van Der Horst (Caraat) taking Individual Silver and Bronze respectively.
The Grade Ia athletes took to the arena yesterday afternoon, where 2012 Paralympic champion, Sophie Christiansen was first out for Great Britain with Athene Lindebjerg. Their well-ridden test achieved eights and nines for the pair’s halt, paces and final centre line giving them a total score of 78.217% shooting her into the lead. Anne Dunham riding the striking Lucas Normark who also competed in the same class produced some lovely work and were awarded a score of 74.348%, which put Anne just behind Sophie. The final scores for this class gave Great Britain a reason to celebrate as Sophie took gold, Anne silver and the host’s Sergio Oliva (Coco Chanel) took bronze.
“It feels quite surreal at the moment. She (Athene) was really with me today, she was so good, she wasn’t scared at all by it. I never underestimated my teammate out there (Anne), I was on tenterhooks until the very end of the test. We’ve all had to fight for it, but I’m really pleased,” said Sophie.
But the success for the Great Britain para-equestrian team didn’t end there, as it was confirmed that the team (Natasha Baker, Sophie Christiansen, Anne Dunham and Sophie Wells) had retained their Paralympic team title, remaining unbeaten in the event since the sport’s debut in Atlanta in 1996. This means that Great Britain remains undefeated at not only Paralympic level, but also World and European. Germany finished in second position with The Netherlands in third.
Today sees the five British athletes compete again in the Individual Freestyle tests which will determine the second set of individual medals.