Tokyo, Japan – August 27, 2021 – The second day of Para Dressage competition at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games saw the remaining two Grades, I and III, battle for the Individual Test titles and the important qualification slots for the upcoming Freestyle To Music test. In Grade I, it was Roxanne Trunnell (USA) who overcame the 25 year U.S. Para Equestrian gold medal dry-spell that held since the Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games, riding Dolton to an impressive 81.464%. Denmark’s Tobias Thorning Jorgensen, riding Jolene Hill, dethroned reigning two-time Paralympic champion Natasha Baker (GBR) with an outstanding score of 78.971% to capture the gold in Grade III competition.
As the World No. 1 and world record holder for the highest scores in a Freestyle Test (89.522%) and in the Grade I Team Test (84.702%), Trunnell came to the Games with huge expectations on her shoulders. Riding Dolton, a nine-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by Flintewood Farms LLC and Karin Flint, Trunnell rocketed to the top of the leaderboard early in Grade I competition on a score of 81.464%. Competing in her second Paralympic Games, Trunnell used the atmosphere and the environment of the Equestrian Park to lay down a beautiful test with Dolton, with who she has developed an incredibly close relationship with over their three-year partnership.
“I really don’t really think about pressure that much, that’s all just noise to me. It’s just me and Dolton doing our own thing. He is loving all of the attention,” said Trunnell. “Dolton is a very goofy young horse. He can be temperamental, but also very easy to get along with.”
Rounding out Grade I competition was the first horse-and-rider pair to take to the Baji Koen arena, Rihards Snikus (LAT), who took the silver with 80.179% on King of the Dance. Sara Morganti (ITA), the reigning FEI World Equestrian Games™ champion, took bronze on Royal Delight with a 76.964%. Morganti’s bronze medal proved to be especially sweet, as a failed vet inspection left her out of contention at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
Jorgensen, who upset the favorite in Grade III competition, accomplished a feat that is easier said than done, given the longevity of some Para Equestrian careers and the experienced athletes they faced in the impressive Baji Koen arena.
“I knew that Rixt and Natasha would be my biggest opponents and are always coming to take the medals, but I also knew that, if I find my best, I could take the medal. I knew I had to do that.
After his spectacular Games debut, the newly crowned Grade III Olympic Gold medalist, Jorgensen, was beaming with pride.
“It was amazing, it really was. I was so focused all the ride but on the last turn, I just had this feeling it was great. I was so happy I just smiled,” he said.
Jorgensen took home the gold aboard Jolene Hill, the 13-year-old Danish Warmblood mare, who he has found continued success upon.
“Jolene is a mare. If I don’t ask her first she just gives me the finger and says ‘You can do something else’. In my warm-up I ask her ‘Is this OK?’ and then in the arena she is there for me. If I ask her correctly, she will go through fire for me.”
Natasha Baker (GBR), who took silver on Keystone Dawn Chorus posted a score of 76.265% while the bronze went to current world champion Rixt van der Horst (NED) on Findsley N.O.P. with 75.765%.
Saturday sees the start of the Team competition – which will run over two days – and is likely to be one of the closest in the history of Para Dressage at the Paralympic Games. USA as world No.1 will want the gold to seal their meteoric rise, while Great Britain and the Netherlands will be working hard to deny them.
Following the second day of competition and the completion of the Individual Test, Great Britain still tops the leaderboard, adding a silver to their tally today with one gold, two silver, and a bronze, followed by the Netherlands, Belgium, USA and Denmark, who have picked up a gold medal over the past two days. Grade I, II, III competition will take place tomorrow, with Grade IV and V competition concluding with the podium presentation on Sunday, August 29. Ride times will be released on the morning of August 29th.