Equestrian made its Paralympic debut at Atlanta 1996. Twenty years later, one athlete will return from that historic Games -- Great Britain’s Anne Dunham.
Dunham, 67, will be Great Britain’s oldest competitor and will take on her fifth Paralympic Games. She will be out to maintain her record of winning a team or individual medal at each one. She won team gold at Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, as well as individual bronze at those first Games, and individual gold and silver in Beijing.
After not being selected for her home Games in London 2012, Dunham was thrilled to be called up for Rio 2016. She was not sure if she would make the team.
“I haven’t stopped fizzing, it’s so exciting. It means the world. It’s my fifth Paralympics and I’ve worked long and hard to get selected,” said Dunham, whose main rivals in the grade 1a will be teammate Sophie Christiansen, Italy’s Sara Morganti and Singapore’s Laurentia Tan.
“It’s a real sense of achievement and I had no sense of certainty about being picked – I just had to work really hard to make it happen. But it all came together and we’re really thrilled.”
She rides one of the most recognisable horses in the sport in LJT Lucas Normark, who stands out from the more commonplace chestnut browns and black horses with his spotted grey colouring. The pair have competed since 2011 and their relationship has grown stronger over the years.
“I’d had him just over a year in the run-up to London 2012 so we were very much a new partnership. He’s had his problems too; in 2014 he had a leg operation and we had a whole year out, but he comes back so well.”
As does Dunham.
After her long career – she only took up competitive riding at the age of 40 – it would be understandable if she called quits after not going to London or the Alltech International Equestrian Federation (FEI) World Equestrian Games in 2014 because of Lucas’s operation.
“It’s just a case of getting on with what’s in front of you,” Dunham said.
“If you’re going to lead a reasonably full life, you’re doing that every day, and living in a wheelchair tends to throw up more obstacles than you realise. I had a long time getting round all of those and still being where I am now.
“As I go down the centre line the only thing I think about is the horse, where we’re going and my daughter’s voice telling me where to go because of my short-term memory problem.”
The memories of her past Paralympic Games still remain.
“We rode on borrowed horses,” she recalled of Atlanta 1996. “We went over there and had our names put in one hat and the horse’s number in another. [The USA] supplied all the horses and I pulled out one called Doodlebug. He was really small and he went down the line like a doodlebug too. The first test he just exploded all the time but by the third test we got an individual bronze.
“In Beijing I took Teddy Edwards out and I have to say that was the Games of my life so far. I got the individual test gold there, and just pipped by Sophie in the freestyle.”
As she looks toward Rio, Dunham will be accompanied by ‘Team Dunham’ – her daughter Amber, sister Gillian Hartley, and trainer Pammy Hutton. Dunham is quietly optimistic about her chances for what would be an eighth medal from five Games.
“It would be the icing on the cake, absolutely fantastic,” she said. “My aim was to get selected and go, and now my aim is to go out there and do the best I possibly can. To get a medal – a gold medal – well, it would make my life.”
Sport fans from around the world can now buy their Paralympic tickets for Rio 2016 from authorised ticket resellers (ATRs)
The IPC’s Global ATR is Jet Set Sports, and Rio 2016 tickets and packages can be purchased on the CoSport website.
Residents of Brazil can buy 2016 Paralympics tickets directly from the Rio 2016 website.
Visa International is the exclusive payment card and the official payment system for the Paralympic Games.