The team test of the Rio 2016 Para-equestrian competition gathers steam on Monday (12 September) as reigning champions Great Britain enter the contest for the first time.
The team, which is undefeated at Paralympic, World and European level, did not have riders in Sunday’s (11 September) grades III and Ib tests, concentrating their firepower instead on grades Ia, II and IV.
On Monday reigning London 2012 triple gold medallist Sophie Christiansen and Beijing 2008 gold medallist Anne Dunham will lead the team’s charge in the afternoon’s grade Ia test.
Dunham is riding in her fifth Games, having been one of three riders in Rio to have competed at the first Games to include Para-equestrian dressage, back in Atlanta 1996.
Both Dunham and Christiansen are, on paper at least, among the top contenders for individual gold medals in their grade and it will be fascinating to see what markers they put down during their first forays into the arena.
Grade Ia is one of the most competitive grades in the competition though, and spectators should also look out for riders such as Singapore’s Laurentia Tan, a silver and bronze medallist from London 2012 and Beijing 2008, and her country’s most decorated Paralympian, and Germany’s Elke Philip. Philip was a former Paralympic skier before turning to dressage.
And the home crowd will be rooting for Brazil’s Sergio Froes Ribeiro De Oliva, who came fourth in London 2012.
Competition starts on Monday morning, though, with the grade IV test, which will be the first chance to see what impact winning two European championship titles in 2015 has had on the Netherlands’ Frank Hosmar, a multi bronze and silver medallist at European, World and Paralympic level.
Hosmar has, historically, been in a three-way tussle for the honours in the grade with Belgium’s reigning World and Paralympic champion Michele George, and Great Britain’s Sophie Wells.
“I feel very good,” he said. “The facilities are good and during the first few days the training arena was quite hard but now it’s really good.
“I’m more eager to get this title after the Europeans. I feel it’s so amazing that every time we think this is the maximum he can do he then opens up something and surprises us every time.
“It’s a small field in the grade IV, but a tough competition.”
The team test will include the debut of Uruguay’s first ever Para-dressage rider, Alfonsina Maldonado. As Uruguay’s sole representative in Deordoro she is not part of the team competition, but will be looking to make a good impression in her first games.