Great Britain’s para-dressage team have won Team Silver at the FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina, USA, and with it, qualified a team place at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Separated by just 0.64%, the British team were just edged to Gold by The Netherlands who finished on a final collective score of 223.597%, becoming the first nation other than Great Britain to win the team title.
Yesterday Sophie Wells MBE (Nottinghamshire) scored a Personal Best of 77.233 in the Grade V Team Test to finish top of her Grade, and Sir Lee Pearson (Staffordshire) followed with a strong score of 71.606% to put the team in fifth place overall overnight before the final set of team tests were contested today – with Great Britain’s Natasha Baker MBE (Middlesex) and Erin Orford (Buckinghamshire) taking to the arena for the Grade III class.
First in was Natasha with Mount St John Diva Dannebrog, owned by the Mount St John Stud. Competing in just their third team test as a combination, they produced a fabulous fluid performance to be rewarded with a Personal Best score of 74.118%.
A delighted and an emotional Natasha said; “I don’t even know what to say, I’m still shaking; she was absolutely amazing.”
“I’m just so, so, proud of her. Everything was just so much better, she went in there with so much more confidence today. I was much more confident today; it hit me a little bit [the pressure], but she just felt so good that it didn’t matter. I just felt so much more prepared going in there today; we got the halts, and just so, so happy. If that’s what we can do after seven months then in another year’s time, she’s just going to grow even more in confidence. I absolutely adore that horse.”
Competing at their first World Equestrian Games, the final rider for the British team was Erin Orford and Dior, owned by Annabel Whittet. Improving on their individual test of Wednesday, the duo put in a lovely performance to receive a confirmed score of 69.029%, bettering their mark from last year’s European Championships.
Speaking after her test, Erin said; “I was so proud of her. I had hoped we’d done enough but unfortunately the scores weren’t on our side. She had a bit of stage-fright on Wednesday, but today I was really pleased, I couldn’t have asked any more of her, we went in there and gave it everything.”
Following the completion of the final class of the day, the Grade I’s this afternoon, the confirmed final team score for Great Britain of 222.957% saw them clinch the Team Silver medal, and seal their place at Tokyo in two years’ time.
Commenting on the team’s performance, Para-Dressage Performance Manager, Sarah Armstrong said; “Our target was to return with a team medal, we’ve done that; and to qualify for Tokyo, and we’ve done that. All of the athletes have delivered great tests over the last two days, and I’m delighted for them.
“We’re happy with how we delivered in the arena, they delivered their best. They have worked so hard, the athletes and the whole support team behind them; we knew it was going to be tough, but I’m thrilled with what they’ve delivered and that the margin was so small.”
Final Team Standings: Gold, The Netherlands = 223.597 | Silver, Great Britain = 222.957 | Bronze, Germany = 219.001
The para-dressage competition draws to a close tomorrow with the final event, the Freestyle, contested. Sophie Wells MBE, Grade V, and Natasha Baker MBE, Grade III, will both take to the arena as they compete for the second Individual titles of the Games.
Equestrian Team GBR is supported by the UK Sport National Lottery funded World Class Programme; the British teams are very grateful to the support they receive from the British Equestrian Federation Fund and official partners Dodson and Horrell, Equi-Trek, FALPRO England, Musto, NAF and Point Two.