Three Medals for Team GB at Tokyo Paralympic Dressage Freestyle
It was three medals for Team GB at the Tokyo Paralympic Dressage Freestyle competition.
After a team gold for the seventh consecutive Games the day before, all eyes were on Team GB as they took to the freestyle stage. Team GB’s dressage rider’s took to their respective grades, lighting up the Paralympic Equestrian Park.
Sophie Wells & Don Cara M
The Grade V competition was the first freestyle competition to commence. This meant British combination, Sophie Wells and Don Cara M were the first of Paralympics GB to take to the stage.
Sophie had selected musics she thought may help the noise sensitive gelding. However, lacking the confidence and expression he is capable of, the gamble did not pay off.
However, taking his first steps onto the goal stage in this Paralympics, the gelding managed an exceptional 73.56% with the expertises of Sophie onboard. This placed them fourth overall and three percent away from any medal placement.
Gold went to Belgium’ Michele George with Best of 8, who topped the 80% mark.
Afterwards Sophie explained;
“He was a little bit tricky in there. He’s not such a fan of music, so he just didn’t like all the speakers around the arena. Good luck to the judges marking my simple changes because I didn’t know what leg I was on, so I just thought I’d do another one because the others have been pretty poor. He could have done that all week, though, that’s the thing with him – he’s got a bit hotter as the week’s gone on. I can’t be disappointed at all because he’s done amazingly and we’ve got two medals, and we did it on the day that counted for the team test. It is what it is with the freestyle and that’s horses, you know. It’s nice for everyone else to see him and for Regine to get a bronze, that’s amazing.”
Natasha Baker & Keystone Dawn Chorus
Incorporating melodies from the London and Rio Paralympics, Natasha Baker was the next Team GB rider to take to the stage.
With music inspired by her winning Paralympic performances on Cabral, this year she enter with novice ride, Keystone Dawn Chorus for his debut championship event.
Claiming individual silver and team gold earlier in the week, the pair exuded confidence but lack some of the energy they had earlier in the week. An active, expressive and accurate test was enough to score 77.614% and a silver medal.
Although, Tobias Thorning Joergensen and Jolene Hill with knocked it out the park with impressive 84.347% to claim gold.
Commenting on her performance, Natasha said;
I’m so proud of the way that she went in there and handled it – she’s grown in confidence each day. I lost a bit of sparkle and in hindsight I should have really reduced my warm-up. On the other two nights she felt full of go, but tonight she genuinely felt exhausted. Just the way that mentally she’s handled this whole situation, though – she’s never been out of the country, this is her first every championship, and I’m just overjoyed with her maturity and her professionalism. She’s just been an absolute star.”
Lee Pearson & Breezer
The Grade 2 was the final class with double Tokyo Paralympic champions, Lee Pearson eager to try for a hat-trick of golds. This would repeat history, as he had done in Atlanta, Sydney and Beijing.
Riding his own home-bred Breezer, who Lee has been honest about the 10-year-old’s sensitive nature. On the night, Breezer seemed much more at home though, taking the atmosphere in his stride. In their first Paralympic freestyle together, the duo danced with real cadence and presence to a spot of ‘Kung Fu Panda’.
Wowing the judges, they awarded the combination 82.447%. This was over an eight percent improvement on their previous international best and another to claim Lee’s 14th Paralympic gold.
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.”
“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.”
Georgia Wilson & Sakura
Also taking on the Grade 2 competition was Georgia Wilson with Sakura.
Individual bronze medallist in Tokyo, their debut Paralympic Games, Georgia ad the 7-year-old gelding were the picture of calm and collected.
Despite inexperience both at Paralympic level and together, only being with Georgia for less than a year, the pair posted a final score of 76.754% to land their second bronze medal of the Games. Her mentor and trainer, Sophie Wells watching for the sidelines, couldn’t have been more proud!
I couldn’t do it without Sophie [Wells]. She calms me down a lot and the training is just invaluable. To be on the podium with Lee [Pearson] 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!”
On Sakura 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!”
Header Image; Georgia Wilson and Sakura in the Grade 2 Dressage Freestyle at Tokyo Paralympics (British Equestrian/Jon Stroud)
You may also like to read
Journalist and News Reporter, Everything Horse
Reporting on equestrian news stories, Abby also produces a variety of engaging content for the magazine.