Following superb wins by Natasha Baker and Sophie Christiansen in the grades II and Ia individual tests, Great Britain has claimed team gold at the Rio 2016 para dressage, continuing an unbeaten run that began when the sport was first introduced to the Olympics (Atlanta, 1996). The British also remain undefeated in European and World championships too – a total of 18 team titles!
The team, made up of Sophie Christiansen and Anne Dunham (both grade Ia), Natasha Baker (II) and Sophie Wells (IV) had a combined score of 453.306 to finish 20 points ahead of Germany in silver (433.321) with The Netherlands in bronze (430.353).
“It’s very exciting” said Anne, who has now won five titles with the team since starting her Paralympic career in 1996. “The one horror that all of us have at the moment is being on the team that doesn’t actually win the team gold medal. But we won it, and we won it in style.”
The result rounded off a good day for Great Britain, which started with Natasha’s win in the grade II individual. Riding Cabral she scored 73.400%, just short of two points clear of silver and bronze medallists, Demi Vermeulen, and Rixt Van der Horst, both from The Netherlands. .
The win was all the sweeter for Natasha as it follows her defeat to Van der Horst at WEG 2014 and the 2015 FEI European championships. In 2014 she was the strong favourite for gold but Cabral was spooked by TV cameras as he entered the arena.
“I just love him so much; he means the absolute world to me. I said to him as we were trotting round in the 10-minute box: ‘Just trust me JP, just trust me,’ and he did. He just worked with me and felt so relaxed. It wasn’t the best test we’ve ever done but I’m just over the moon with him.”
Sophie Christiansen won the grade Ia individual title on Athene Lindebjerg with the top score of the week so far, 78.217%. Anne Dunham (GBR), competing at her fifth Games was second, and there was a hugely popular bronze for Brazil’s Sergio Oliva, who is his country’s second-ever Para dressage medallist (Marcos Alves took two bronzes in Beijing 2008).
“I’ve always wanted to do my best at everything I put my hand to – academics, sport. It’s going to sound big-headed but I think you have to have more than talent to stay at the top.”