Italy’s Para equestrian star Sara Morganti will make her return to full international competition following heartbreak at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
The grade I freestyle world champion is set to compete at the seventh running of the Deauville three-star Para equestrian contest, in Normandy, France, which runs from Friday (31 March) to Sunday (2 April).
Following her gold and silver at the Alltech International Equestrian Federation (FEI) World Equestrian Games in 2014, Morganti was a strong bet for a Rio medal. However, her horse, Royal Delight, did not pass the veterinary inspection held before any major competition, leaving her distraught at being unable to compete. Six months later though she returns to the arena as part of a four-strong Italian team.
Around 53 riders from 18 countries will compete in Deauville, the first major European international of the Para equestrian season. Deauville will also welcome three new nations for the first time this year - Uruguay, the Czech Republic and Portugal.
Among the more familiar names competing are Rio gold medallists Sophie Wells of Great Britain and Austria’s Pepo Puch. The Netherlands’ silver and bronze medallist Rixt Van der Horst will also ride, alongside teammate and world and European medallist Nicole Den Dulk.
Brazil’s Sergio Oliva, who famously took two bronze medals to the sheer delight of the crowds at his home Games also competes as part of a full Brazilian team of four, which also includes Rodolpho Riskalla.
Oliva said: “I’ve been in training since 10 January learning the new grade I tests. I ride four times a week and hope to do my best in the show coming just after the Paralympic Games. But my aim is to be at the FEI World Equestrian Games next year and Deauville is the first step for that.”
The ever dominant Great Britain is sending the largest group of riders – eight – to France, including one of the competition’s youngest, 16-year old grade IV (formerly grade III) rider Isobelle Palmer.
Palmer said: “This is my first time competing abroad and I am really looking forward to Deauville. My aim is to enjoy it, ride the best I can and gain experience internationally.”