Dressage: Day four preview

Great Britain’s Baker and Christiansen to defend their London 2012 individual grade II and Ia titles at the Olympic Equestrian Centre in Deodoro. 15 Sep 2016
Natasha Baker

Natasha Baker competes at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

ⒸLiz Gregg

The final individual championship medals of the Rio 2016 Para dressage competition will be awarded on Thursday (15 September), deciding the overall team championship in the process.

Grades II and Ia riders will contest their individual tests, on what could turn out to be a golden day for Great Britain and its reigning Paralympic champions Natasha Baker and Sophie Christiansen.

Following her win in the grade II team test, albeit by the narrowest of margins, Baker will start the favourite in the grade II test. The double London 2012 gold medallist will again, however, face a strong challenge from reigning World and European champion Rixt Van der Horst of the Netherlands, and her team mate Demi Vermeulen.

Vermeulen looked particularly impressive in the team test earlier in the week and could be a real contender for an individual medal.

“To win would be fantastic but we will see,” said Van der Horst earlier in the week. “The other competitors are really strong.

“I’m with a different horse in different circumstances, but I will do my best. I am going for a medal but we will see. The individual is my better test.”

Germany’s Steffen Zeibig, the USA’s Rebecca Hart, and Canada’s Lauren Barwick will also be in the running for a medal in what could prove to be thrilling competition.

The grade Ia competition will see Christiansen try to retain her two individual titles from London 2012, although this year she is riding her newer horse, Athene.

Christiansen, who remains the highest scoring rider of the competition so far (with 77% plus in the Ia team test), starts the favourite to win the title. However, her team mate Ann Dunham will provide tough competition in this, her fifth Paralympic competition.

Dunham is one of only three riders in Rio who competed in the debut Para dressage competition at the Atlanta 1996 Games.

And, alongside her, Singapore’s Laurentia Tan and Germany’s Elke Philip will also be in contention for a medal, as will London 2012’s fourth placed rider Rihards Snikus (LAT).

Wins for Great Britain in both tests, should they happen, should also see the team in first place once again, a familiar occurrence having claimed team gold at every Paralympics since Para dressage joined the programme in 1996.