Newcomers strike para-dressage gold at Tokyo 2020

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Roxanne Trunnell (USA) and Dolton won the Grade 1 individual test at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
Roxanne Trunnell (USA) and Dolton won the Grade 1 Individual Test at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. © FEI/Liz Gregg

US rider Roxanne Trunnell has won her first international para dressage title, taking out the Grade 1 Individual test at Tokyo 2020 with a massive score of 81.464% with Dolton.

As the World No.1, Trunnell holds two world records for the highest scores in a Freestyle Test (89.522%) and in Grade I Team Test (84.702%). She came to these Games with huge expectations placed on her shoulders, but remained unfazed. “I don’t think about pressure – that’s all just noise to me,” she said.

“It’s just me and Dolton doing our own thing. He is loving all the attention, it’s fun. He’s a goofy young horse, he’s temperamental but also easy to get along with.”.

The silver medal went to Rihards Snikus (LAT), a keen DJ known as DJ Richy Rich to his friends, who was first into the arena and laid down a challenging score of 80.179% on King of the Dance. Reigning FEI World Equestrian Games champion Sara Morganti (ITA), took bronze on Royal Delight with 76.964%. It is a medal that is especially sweet for her, as her horse failed the vet inspection at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

» Results

From left, Rihards Snikus (LAT), Roxanne Trunnell (USA) and Sara Morganti (ITA) on the podium for the Grade 1 Individual medal ceremony. Trunnell's mount Dolton is in the background.
From left, Rihards Snikus (LAT), Roxanne Trunnell (USA) and Sara Morganti (ITA) on the podium for the Grade 1 Individual medal ceremony. Trunnell’s mount Dolton is in the background. © FEI/Liz Gregg
Golden debut for Danish rider

As debut Games go, it’s fair to say that Tobias Thorning Jorgensen (DEN) is having a good one. In his first ever ride in a Paralympic Games arena, he won the Grade III Individual Test with a score of 78.971%, on Jolene Hill. They had impressed at the 2019 FEI European Championship with gold medal performances.

In doing so, the 21-year-old dethroned two-time Grade III Paralympic Champion, Natasha Baker (GBR), who came second on Keystone Dawn Chorus, with 76.265%. Bronze went to current World Champion Rixt van der Horst (NED) on Findsley N.O.P. with 75.765%.

“It was amazing, it really was,” Jorgensen said, beaming after his test.

Denmark's Tobias Thorning Jorgensen won the Grade III Individual Test on Jolene Hill at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
Denmark’s Tobias Thorning Jorgensen won the Grade III Individual Test on Jolene Hill at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. © FEI/Liz Gregg

“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.

“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.

“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.”

It was Baker’s seventh Paralympic medal and her first with Keystone Dawn Chorus, whom she started riding in March 2019, just as the Covid-19 pandemic struck. Tokyo 2020 was the mare’s first time out of Britain and by far her biggest arena.

“I feel a little overwhelmed – it’s crazy that it’s actually happening! I’m so, so happy with Lottie out there. She did me proud,” Baker said.

Britain's Natasha Baker was thrilled with the performance of Keystone Dawn Chorus to win silver in the Grade III Individual Test at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
Britain’s Natasha Baker was thrilled with the performance of Keystone Dawn Chorus to win silver in the Grade III Individual Test at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. © FEI/Liz Gregg

“We’ve done our best to prepare in the circumstances we’ve been given. All of the horses in my class have done previous championships and they’ve been into big atmospheres, they’ve travelled. Every thing for Lottie has been new – I’m happy we were able to go in and deliver that performance.”

“It’s amazing to be here at my third Paralympics. It’s been such an amazing year and to be able to come out and do it on another horse is just really, really special to me. She’s so talented and I’m so lucky to have her, she just means the world to me.”

» Results

Team contest

Next up is the Team competition which is run over two days, from August 28 to 29. It 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 itsmeteoric rise, while Great Britain and The Netherlands will be working hard to deny them that.

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.

Additional reporting: Winnie Murphy

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