The British Paralympic Association (BPA) today confirmed the high calibre squad of five equestrian riders that will represent ParalympicsGB at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, each a multi-Paralympic medallist in their own right.
Natasha Baker MBE, Sophie Christiansen OBE, Anne Dunham MBE, Lee Pearson CBE and Sophie Wells MBE have 13 Games’ worth of experience between them and a shared haul of 30 Paralympic medals.
Great Britain has been at the forefront of the sport since its inception at the Paralympic Games in Atlanta 1996 and has won team gold at every Paralympic Games since. Outside of the Paralympic arena, the team also have an unbeaten record on the European and World stage despite increasing international competition.
Sophie Christiansen OBE is setting her sights on Rio to defend the three Paralympic titles that she won at London 2012.
Speaking today, she said: “To be selected for my fourth Paralympic Games is an absolute honour; it’s funny that I’m now seen as a veteran at the grand old age of 28.
“I can’t wait to see what Rio has to offer, it will be a very different Games to London but I think my time in Athens and Beijing has prepared me well. It’s been made even more special after what I’ve gone through this year, the challenges I’ve faced have made me come out even stronger and hopefully I’ll emulate what I did in London – that’s my goal.
“The Paralympic Games has grown massively since I made my debut in Athens; the standard across sports has really grown in that time – including both media and spectators, and I can’t wait to see where it goes in the future. I think that London was the pinnacle of the Paralympic Games and I really hope that even though it’s not a home Games, that people will get behind us again.”
Lee Pearson CBE made his debut in Sydney and has won an incredible ten gold medals in Paralympic competition, an achievement that puts him within touching distance of Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and Dame Sarah Storey, who each have 11 gold medals to their name.
He said: “I’m really happy but I was shocked when I was told, as I was for every other Paralympic Games – until you’re told you never quite believe it’s possible until you’ve actually been selected. I am really, really happy, it’s very surreal to be heading to my fifth Games and makes me sound very old!
“My fifth one is surreal, how para-dressage has developed and how strong Great Britain’s riders are, I do feel surprised on selection, as it’s such a strong squad – it makes you appreciate it even more.”
Penny Briscoe MBE, Chef de Mission for ParalympicsGB, said:
“There are few sports that can boast such a strong track-record at Paralympic level, but the huge strength in depth of this squad is clearly on display here. No matter what their past achievements are, each athlete has had to to consistently perform at their best in order to earn their selection for Rio.
“As competition grows tougher, we know that there will be no complacency from our equestrian riders, and that however calm and composed they may appear in the arena, they will fiercely battle their Paralympic rivals for medals in Rio.”
Dan Hughes, Team Leader for equestrian, said:
“I am delighted to see the list of athletes selected for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games; it is an extremely strong squad that has every chance of maintaining the excellent record GBR holds in para-equestrian Dressage. We go to Rio with high expectations of these athletes, yet in the full knowledge that each and every medal will be hard fought for. I have no doubt that they will rise to this challenge and make the country proud.”
Today’s announcement takes the number of selected athletes on the ParalympicsGB team to 188, across 17 sports.
Selected athletes, equestrian:
- Natasha Baker MBE with Christian Landolt, Phil and Lorraine Baker’s Cabral
- Sophie Christiansen OBE with Diane Redfern’s Athene Lindebjerg
- Anne Dunham MBE with the Lady Joseph Trust and Henrietta Cheetham’s [LJT] Lucas Normark
- Lee Pearson CBE with David and Lynda Pearson, Gillian Chinn and his own Zion
- Sophie Wells MBE with her own Valerius