Rio Paralympics:
The Story
So Far...

13 September 2016

The heat has been hard to beat in Deodoro, the equestrian heart of the Rio 2016 Olympics, but the best of the best are rising to the challenge with mighty force.

Now that the Olympics have finished, the Paralympic athletes get there chance on the world stage.  Some would argue that the stories and achievements of these athletes far outweigh those of their able-bodied counterparts - and I would admit to being one of those people.


The past 3 days have seen some great action in the Dressage ring, with Norway’s Ann Cathrin Lubbe taking the first lead on Sunday, earning the top spot in the grade III team test - made all the more impressive considering the racket coming from exploding fireworks from a nearby town!  Viva Brazil…


“I had a marvellous ride what with the noise and everything,” she said. “My trainer had told me to ignore everything and just ride, so I just rode. But he’s a very good horse too.”

I’m happy.
It was not a bad start

The mighty Lee Pearson, Great Britain’s 10-time Paralympic champion...

...showed what he was made of on his mount, Zion and scoring 75.280%. Pearson’s score, however, will not count towards the British Team’s competition as he was not selected to ride for the team.



“That horse gave me everything he could possibly give me at his age, his education and his strength” said Pearson. “I love him to bits. I do care about the results but I don’t care what the judges think because he was brilliant, amazing. I think it’s the best test he’s ever done.



For Pepo Puch this was his first ride at a major international on his new horse, Fontainenoir. “I’m happy. It was not a bad start,” he said.



Nervous Waiting…


Puch, Brazil’s Rodolfo Riskalla and Denmark’s Stinna Tange Kaastrup had to contend with the added stress of not knowing whether or not they would be able to compete on Sunday as their horses were held overnight following Saturday’s horse inspection. Kaastrup, who missed out on a place at London 2012 after her previous horse died, came fourth in the grade Ib and described the wait as “the worst night of my life”.

I do care about the results but I don’t care what the judges think because Zion was brilliant, amazing!

Morganti Out 

For Italy’s world number two and reigning grade Ia freestyle champion, however, there was not such fortune. Her horse, Royal Delight, was also held for re-inspection and was not passed as fit for competition, knocking a devastated Morganti out of the Games completely.


British & Belgian Rules


The Brits took control on Monday, with London 2012 double gold medallist Sophie Christiansen winning the grade Ia team test. 


Riding Athene Lindebjerg, Christiansen scored the highest marks of the entire competition so far.


 “For her to go in that loud, atmospheric arena I was over the moon with her,” Christiansen said after her test. “And I’ve got a really bad cold today so I had to contend with that as well.



The current Belgian world champion, Michèle George won the grade IV team test in the morning, setting out her stall for the defence of her two individual London 2012 titles in the process.



“It felt great,” said George after her test. “I was very happy with my horse.



Following the day’s tests Great Britain currently lead the team competition, ahead of Belgium and Germany.


High Emotions


One of the more emotional moments of Monday’s competition came when Uruguay’s Alfonsina Maldonado, riding Da Vinci, competed her test. Maldonado’s debut marks the first time Uruguay has entered the para-dressage competition and it appeared that the nerves and pressure of the event may have affected her. She finished at the bottom of the nine-rider field and left the arena in tears.


“The horse was really good but I was really nervous and emotional because it was the first time my family was here to see me and I couldn’t control my hands and legs. I hope that my country feels proud. I did my best.”




Text by Rob Howell & Paul Stretton/FEI

Photography by Liz Gregg