Tokyo, Japan – August 28, 2021 – Para Dressage competition at the Baji Koen Equestrian Park continued Saturday, August 28, marking the first day of Team competition at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. As the only teams to see all of their team riders contest, Canada currently sits atop the leaderboard on a combined score of 211.699, with Singapore following behind on a score of 200.792. However, the podium placings are still up for grabs with any combination of The Netherlands, Great Britain, USA, Belgium and Denmark in contention for team medals, in any order.
Para Dressage Teams consist of three athletes per team. Each Grade competes separately in its own Team Test, with each horse and athlete combination performing a series of predetermined movements, which differ by Grade. Athletes in Grades I, II and III executed their Team Tests Saturday, and Sunday will see Grades IV and V in the arena to round out the competition. The combined results of each of the teams’ three athletes will determine the overall score and the team with the most points wins gold.
The United States’ Roxanne Trunnell laid down the day’s only 80 plus score in the Grade I Team Test, riding Dolton to an 80.321% despite the noise of fire engines attending a nearby incident. The pair performed calmly and brilliantly through the distraction to place themselves atop the leaderboard for the second day in a row. Second place went to Sara Morganti (ITA) with an impressive 79.286% on Royal Delight. Michael Murphy (IRL) and Cleverboy would finish in third with a 75.179%, an especially pleasing result for the young Irish rider after he suffered an equipment failure in the Grade I Individual Test Friday, which left him in last place.
“He felt brilliant again. He was a little tense but we worked through it,” said Trunnell after her Test. Referring to the disturbance outside she added, “That’s what made him tense up a little. I don’t think you can prepare [for something like that]. It just happens and you go with it. It means a lot to ride for the USA after such a weird year. Everyone is going to remember this Paralympics.”
The day started well for Lee Pearson (GBR), who bested the Grade II Team Test on Breezer with a 77.636%. Pepo Puch (AUT) came second in the Test on Sailor’s Blue with a 74.909%, while Katrine Kristensen (DEN) earned her team a valuable 72.515% on Welldone Dallas.
“I am over the moon with that lovely score. Breezer doesn’t like the Olympic arena and he was quite frightened in there. He’s a sensitive soul, but I’m so proud of him because I held his hand and he trusted me and I could be sitting here with a different story,” stated Pearson following his win. “He’s sensitive, but when [that sensitivity] is on our side, it makes him fabulous.”
In the Grade III Team Test, Tobias Thorning Jorgensen (DEN) took the top spot and gave his country a real shot at a medal with a stunning 79.559% aboard Jolene Hill. Riding to second place and building her team’s score was Natasha Baker (GBR) who posted a 76.618% on Keystone Dawn Chorus. Rixt van der Horst (NED) and Findsley N.O.P. rounded out the top three with a 76.235%.
“It was intense today. I’ve done something today, so I have a little bit of pain, so that was just Jolene carrying me around,” remarked Jorgensen. “I’m very grateful to her. She went even better than yesterday. This is a great start and I hope we can be a medal contender, or at least be there so if anyone makes a mistake, we can take it. I just love the Team competition because we go down here as a family and are there for each other.”
Based on the scores at this halfway point in the competition, the gold medal is still up for grabs between the USA, Great Britain, and The Netherlands. However, strong performances from the two Danish riders today, and with Belgium’s two remaining riders still to go, those two countries could still snatch a medal.
It all comes down to Sunday’s Grade IV and V Tests. As the Grade V athletes go first, all eyes will be on Kate Shoemaker (USA), who will determine her team’s final score, as well as on Frank Hosmar (NED), who will want to build on his teammate Van Der Horst’s performance today. Individual Grade IV bronze medallist Manon Claeys (BEL) and Grade V Individual Test gold medallist Michele George (BEL) will complete Belgium’s competition, while Grade V Individual Test silver medallist Sophie Wells (GBR) could produce her country’s winning score.
In what could be a dramatic finish in Grade IV, Individual Test gold medallist Sanne Voets (NED) could also find herself riding to seal victory for her country. As the last of the likely winners to ride, Voets will have a good idea of the score needed to get the gold. Adding to the pressure is her chance of becoming only the third Para Dressage athlete to secure the triple – consecutive gold medals at the European Championships, World Equestrian Games and Paralympics. Sanne insists that she doesn’t play the numbers game, but her fans and followers of Para Dressage will know that this will be one of the highest stakes rides she will ever perform.
To keep up to date with the results, check out the website here.
To view the schedule in depth, click here.