Great Britain is on target to retain their unbroken record of Paralympic team golds, after the first two British team riders got off to a great start.
In the Grade IV division, Sophie Wells and Valerius scored 74.405%, leaving them in second place behind Belgium’s Michele George, the two-time individual gold medalist at London 2012.
“I feel really good, he went in and he listened to what I asked him to do,” Sophie said. “He got a little bit nervous when he first went in, which is understandable as he’s never been to a Paralympics before, but he concentrated and he did what I wanted him to do today. There were no big mistakes in the test which is important for day one, and it’s nice just to get in there.”
Theirs is a partnership that has been a decade in the making. “I got him ten years ago, the amount of work I’ve put in and the amount we’ve grown together, I was sixteen when I got him, and ten years later we’re here and it’s just awesome,” she continued.
Things got even better for Team GB in the Grade Ia competition, with Sophie Christiansen finishing top of the leaderboard, and her team mate Anne Dunham in secone.
Riding Lucas Normark, Anne scored an impressive 73.957% despite the sweltering temperatures. “It was hard work but you expect it to be hard work. The arena felt enormous, I felt like a dot in there. It was much better than I had hoped for; it was hot and he’s not great in the heat, he gets a bit sluggish but I was really pleased with him, and he went in there and went for it,” said Anne.
But last to go Sophie Christiansen, riding Athene Lindebjerg, produced a stunning score of 77.522% to take the lead. Despite feeling unwell with a cold, Sophie achieved the highest score of the entire competition so far.
“She’s so young, so to cope with that arena I was over the moon,” said Sophie of her nine-year-old mare. “It felt a bit tentative today, but I know that there’s more to come. Athene’s been absolutely amazing, for any nine-year-old to go out and do that, she doesn’t really like noise but she absolutely knows her job.”
Today Natasha Baker and Cabral compete in the Grade II event, before a busy few days of individual championship tests, which will also count towards the team medals.
Britain has never lost team gold at any Para-dressage championship – and at this rate, they could easily add another gold to their haul. Belgium sits in second with Germany in third.