Paralympic Games
24 August - 5 September 2021

Sanne Voets gold medal win gives hope for triple-triple in Para equestrian

First day of Para equestrian also saw Great Britain's Lee Pearson retain dominance 26 Aug 2021
Sanne Voets with first medal at Tokyo 2020
Dutch rider Voets celebrates her gold in the individual grade IV test at Tokyo 2020 and aims now for wins in the freestyle and team events
ⒸGetty Images
By Ruth Faulkner I For the IPC

Day one of Para equestrian at the Tokyo Equestrian Park kicked off with a gold medal dressage individual test grade IV win from Sanne Voets of the Netherlands that sparks hope for a triple-triple in individual, freestyle and team events.

Voets, who won gold in the Grade III individual freestyle at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, has dominated in recent years and is already World and European champion in the individual, freestyle and team IV events. Now, her first gold medal today perfectly kicks off her campaign to carry this triple-triple at the Paralympic level. The elusive triple-triple has only ever also been reached by Great Britain's Lee Pearson. Despite the possibility, she's not letting the pressure throw her off.

"We have (one) gold and everything we can win on top of that is a bonus. I really am glad I got to show my horse in his best shape. And I don't think I could honour him more than by riding him in a good way, and making sure that he can shine in this beautiful atmosphere."

"What it's about, what is the most important thing in our sport, is to be a good rider to your horse. In the end his judgement is to me, even more valuable than that of the judges or the spectators or your coach or anyone. He's the one judging me. His judgement is the one that really, really matters," she said of horse Demantur.

Meanwhile Pearson took his 12th Paralympic Games gold medal in the dressage individual test grade II. While he’s won many medals, this one felt particularly special.

Lee Pearson competes in the Equestrian Individual Test Grade II at the Equestrian Park during the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

"Very, very emotional. I cried in the arena. It's been a long journey. It's a home-bred horse. I'm a dad now, and that's made me more emotional because I've never had to keep anyone else alive other than myself. 

“So, loads of emotions, your family not out here, (I was riding a) young, sensitive horse. He's been with me since he was hours old. I owned his dad, and his dad was Bacardi, and that's why we named him Breezer,” Pearson said.

Pearson, who’s actually allergic to horses, was given a knighthood in the 2017 New Year's Honours list in recognition of his service to equestrianism and Paralympic sport. His first Paralympic Games was Sydney in 2000 and, after 21 years, he’s just taking it as it comes. “It's surreal. I never take anything for granted. It's literally just living for today,” he said.

Pearson’s compatriot Georgia Wilson took bronze with her horse Sakura, while silver went to Austrian Pepo Puch with horse Sailor’s Blue.

Both Pearson and Voets next compete in team test to music on Saturday, 28 August.