Tokyo 2020: Britain takes Para Dressage team gold title yet again

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Great Britain's Raralympic tean gold medalists, from left, Lee Pearson, Sophee Wells and Natasha Baker.
Great Britain’s Raralympic tean gold medalists, from left, Lee Pearson, Sophee Wells and Natasha Baker. © Jon Stroud Media

Britain has continued its seemingly unbreakable hold on Para Dressage Team gold, taking out the title yet again at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

Their claim on the team title began at Atlanta in 1996, and on Sunday the trio of Sir Lee Pearson (Grade II), Natasha Baker (Grade III) and Sophie Wells (Grade V) scored 229.905 to finish just 0.656 ahead of The Netherlands’ 229.249.

And in another momentous shift in the sport, USA took the bronze medal with 224.352, making this their first Paralympic Team podium finish, and the first time the podium hasn’t been made up of all European teams.

At the beginning of the day, the competition was shaping up to be a showdown between the three podium winners, with Great Britain having the slight advantage over the USA, with both countries having two tests already completed.

The Grade V Team test was won by Belgium’s Michele George on Best of 8. She scored 77.047% to put her country into medal contention.

A crucial score of 75.651% for Sophie Wells (GBR) proved to be a massive boost for her country’s chances of winning, while Frank Hosmar (NED) on Alphaville N.O.P. posted 74.814% to keep things neck and neck between the two countries.

At the start of the Grade IV Team Test, the British had completed all their rides, leaving the USA and The Netherlands with the knowledge of how much their last two athletes would have to score to beat them.

Britain's Sophie Wells and Don Cara M in her Grade 5 Dressage Team Test to Music at Tokyo 2020.
Britain’s Sophie Wells and Don Cara M in her Grade 5 Dressage Team Test to Music at Tokyo 2020. © Jon Stroud Media

First up was Kate Shoemaker (USA) on Solitaer 40. She scored 71.825% to put the USA in silver medal position.

Sanne Voets (NED) then entered the arena on Demantur N.O.P. and knew she needed to score 78.136% to beat Great Britain. Four minutes later she left, and her score was announced, a massive personal best of 78.200%. However, between the calculation of what was needed to win, and Sanne’s test, Sophie Wells’ score was confirmed slightly higher than the provisional score given earlier, thus giving Great Britain the closest of wins.

“I don’t think any of us expected that in a million, trillion, gazillion years to be honest. We’re all so immensely proud of everything our horses have done in the last few days,” Natasha Baker said after the medal ceremony.

“We had no expectation that we could achieve that,” Sophie Wells added. “We genuinely thought it was impossible in the most realistic way. We all had horses that have never done this or been against anyone else. The Dutch are so strong and secure on their horses and we’re not.”

“We haven’t even got any championship horses on this team,” said Lee Pearson.

Lee Pearson (GBR) and Breezer in their Grade 2 Dressage Team Test to Music at Tokyo 2020.
Lee Pearson (GBR) and Breezer in their Grade 2 Dressage Team Test to Music at Tokyo 2020. © Jon Stroud Media

Team Leader Georgia Sharples paid tribute to the team saying: “I just think these guys are undefeated Paralympic champions but in a whole new context. You’ve heard about the inexperienced horsepower, but never underestimate these guys and what a job they did out there on that field of play.”

The Netherlands were equally enthused by their silver, and the closeness of the competition.

“We’ve been working towards this for five years,” Sanne Voets said, “and this is where you want to perform at your best and, if you can succeed at that you can’t be disappointed.

“There was so much pressure. When we saw the order to go and I realised I was the last rider of the three countries who were expected to win I knew I would know the score needed for team gold.”

Natasha Baker (GBR) and Keystone Dawn Chorus in their Grade 3 Dressage Team Test to Music at Tokyo 2020.
Natasha Baker (GBR) and Keystone Dawn Chorus in their Grade 3 Dressage Team Test to Music at Tokyo 2020. © Jon Stroud Media

And despite coming into the Games as hot favourites for the title, there was delight and relief with bronze for the USA as well, especially Rebecca Hart, who has competed at four Games now.

“I don’t have words right now,” Hart said. “It was such an amazing competition and so close. A real nail-biter to the very end. I am so incredibly blessed and happy to be standing here with these two amazing riders [Kate Shoemaker and Roxanne Trunnell]. To finally, after so many years, be able to stand on that podium as a country, it’s a lifelong dream come true.”

Para Dressage competition comes to an end on August 30, when the top eight individual riders in each Grade take to the arena to dance in the ever-popular Freestyle competition.

Celebrations on the podium at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics with the winners of the team competition.
Celebrations on the podium at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics with the winners of the team competition. From left, silver medalists from The Netherlands, Rixt van der Horst (Findsley), Sanne Voets (Demantur), and Frank Hosmar (Alphavile); Britain’s gold medalists Lee Pearson (Breezer), Sophie Wells (Don Cara M), and Natasha Baker (Keystone Dawn Chorus); and bronze medalists from the USA Kate Shoemaker (Solitaer 40), Roxanne Trunnell (Dolton), and Rebecca Hart (El Corona Texel). © FEI/Liz Gregg

Para dressage results Tokyo 2020

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