Britain enjoyed another spectacularly successful day, winning two grades and finishing second in another, gaining a healthy lead after the first half of the team competition, which culminates on Sunday night.
Sophie Christiansen posted the highest percentage of the Games so far with 83.765%, riding her own Janeiro 6 to win the Grade Ia with a massive lead. It is the combination’s personal best score.
Sophie, who is competing at her third Games aged a mere 24, found the 15-year-old 16.2hh bay gelding by Jacquare through the Eilberg family last year. He unexpectedly became her top horse, having been her reserve, when Rivaldo Of Berkeley was put down at the end of last year.
She said: “I couldn’t ask for a better horse with a better temperament. I knew he would be perfect in that environment. Obviously you can never test it out as no one has 10,000 people to hand. I have had him one year, so our partnership is still relatively new. He is so fantastic; I knew he would do the job. “
Sophie also acknowledged her back up team and, in particular, her trainer of 10 years, Clive Milkins: “We know each other inside out; we’re like an old married couple.”
Sophie will be first to go in her next test, the individual on Sunday. She said: “It’s not the best draw, but you can’t change it and someone has to go first.”
London-based Laurentia Tan and the 14-year-old Ruben James 2 took second place for Singapore. Laurentia took up riding aged five at the Diamond Centre for the Disabled Riders having moved here aged three. She was the first Singaporean to win a Paralympic medal in 2008.
Ireland’s Helen Kearney and 13-year-old Mister Cool finished third. The combination are trained by Heike Holstein and won European individual bronze last year.
Grade IV rider Sophie Wells followed in her team- and room-mate Nathasha Baker’s footsteps by also winning her grade in the team test and scoring an international personal best of 75.906% on her Olympic debut.
It was a particularly special and long-awaited moment for 22-year-old Sophie as she was first reserve for the 2008 Hong Kong Games, was called up, but then had to stand down after Touchdown went lame while in quarantine.
This time she was riding Dr Jackie and Dr Neil Walker’s 15-year-old 17.2hh gelding Pinocchio by Landeur, who is working at grand prix level and with whom she has competed at able-bodied European Young Rider Championships.
Sophie has ridden ‘”Noki” for three and a half years now and their confidence to go for it was apparent. She said: “I go out to do my best. You can’t just go and ride a safe test. I wasn’t going to let this opportunity get away from me. I had a really bad day with my legs yesterday and we had a few problems with the saddle earlier in the week as he has changed shape slightly, so we had to make a few last-minute adjustments.
“I just have to thank all the GB support team - the osteopath, saddler, vet, physio, trainer, groom - as this is such a massive team effort just to get them in the right shape to let me do my job. We are so lucky to have funding from UK Sport and the National Lottery, to enable us to bring these people with us to competitions to help us prepare.
“I can’t thank my trainer Angela Weiss enough. We’ve worked together since 2004 and she has helped me grow up. She’s not just my trainer, but also my psychologist and everything else.
“Noki is an amazing horse to ride, Jackie Walker has been an absolutely amazing owner and I’m so lucky for that because, you know, good horses, they don’t come around very often.”
Belgium’s Michelle George and the 10-year-old Dutch-bred Rainman finished second. Michelle, who is trained by Ulla Salzgeber and Jean Bemelmans, has ridden since she was 12 and won freestyle silver in Kentucky in 2010.
Professional trainer and Paralympic debutant, Holland’s Frank Hosmar and Alphaville, who are also trained by an eminent coach, competitor and compatriot Adelinde Cornelissen, took third place.
Competing at her fourth Paralympics, Britain’s Grade III representative Deb Criddle rode the 12-year-old 16.1hh LJT Akilles at his biggest event to date to score 72.926% and finish second.
Deb has had the ride on the 12-year-old by Amiral, owned by The Lady Joseph Trust, since March last year, winning European team and freestyle gold as well as individual silver after just a few months together.
She said: “It was not our best test; I didn’t ride the first few movements enough because I didn’t know what to expect from him in this atmosphere. I now know I can ask for a lot more. It would have been nice to have broken the 74% barrier, but you have to push the barriers for that and need to have a lot more expression. I went in feeling I had to be a little careful in some movements. I also had a couple of late transitions, but I would rather show harmony and super-soft transitions. He had a look at something – a sandbag I think – but apart from that, he didn’t put a foot wrong. It is the rider accuracy that needs a bit more work!”
The class was won by Germany’s Hannelore Brenner riding her own 17-year-old Hannoverian mare, Women Of The World. This is also Hannelore’s fourth Paralympics; in 2008 she won team silver as well as individual and freestyle gold. Third place went to Denmark’s Annika Dalskov with the six-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding, Aros A Fenris, by De Niro.
The team medals will be determined by adding together each athlete’s percentage score in the team test and the individual championship test, which is on over the weekend. The combined results of the top three athletes in each team will determine the team score.
Results Grade Ia:
1, Sophie Christiansen (Janeiro 6) GBR 83.765%
2, Laurenta Tan (Ruben James 2) SIN 74.235%
3, Helen Kearney (Mister Cool) IRL 72.235%
Results Grade III:
1, Hannelore Brenner (Women Of The World) GER 75.741%
2, Deb Criddle (LJT Akilles) GBR 72.926%
3, Annika Dalskov (Aros A Fenris) 72.889%
Results Grade IV:
1, Sophie Wells (Pinocchio) GBR 75.906%
2, Michele George (Rainman) BEL 72.969%
3, Frank Hosmar (Alphaville) NED 71.781%
Start times for tomorrow:
Individual Championship Test Grade II, Natasha Baker (Cabral) 9.32am
Individual Championship Test Grade Ib, Lee Pearson (Gentleman) 3.01pm
Full results and running orders