“Great Britain will be sending what I believe to be one of the strongest and best prepared squads to the Paralympic Games.”
The British Paralympic Association (BPA) has announced the five Equestrian athletes who will seek to maintain the impressive track record of British riders at the Paralympic Games.
The 2012 squad will feature a combination of youth and experience, with nine-time Paralympic gold-medallist Lee Pearson (Grade Ib) set to make his fourth ParalympicsGB appearance alongside Deborah Criddle (Grade III). For Sophie Christiansen (Grade Ia), London will be her third Games, having joined both Lee and Deborah in the squad for Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008. Between them the selected athletes have represented Great Britain at ten Paralympic Games, winning a total of fourteen medals.
“Honoured to be representing @TeamGBR alongside my teammates @MrLeePearsonCBE @NBakerParaRider @sophiewells90 and Deb Criddle,” Christiansen teweeted from @SChristiansen87
“It’s a huge relief to get the nod and a great honour to be going to my fourth Paralympic Games, the feeling still hasn’t worn off,” said Pearson.
“It feels surreal at the minute but I’m really looking forward to it; we have a very strong squad and with the home crowd behind you the support there will be great but there will be that extra added pressure. I don’t think I’ll ever be going to a Games in this country again and I really can’t wait to get there”.
They are joined by Sophie Wells (Grade IV) and Natasha Baker (Grade II) – both of whom achieved Paralympic selection for the first time, when the announcement came on Monday 9 June.
“[I have] been selected to compete at the Paralympics!!!!! Wooohoooo so proud of my boys!! Little bit excited!! Come on team gb!!!” Sophie Wells tweeted from @sophiewells90.
“Massive thanks to my team, owners, sponsors, supporters friends and family for making my dream of London 2012 possible!!!”
Baker, also tweeted excitedly: “Wooohoooo!! JP and I are off to the @London2012 @ParalympicGames!!!! Thanks for all of your support! It's a huge honour and privilege.”
Britain’s riders topped the medal table in Beijing, winning five gold medals including team gold for the fourth consecutive Games. The four team riders will be hoping to capitalise on their previous successes at Paralympic Games and record their fifth team title, having won team gold at every Paralympic Games since the sport was introduced at Atlanta in 1996.
“Great Britain will be sending what I believe to be one of the strongest and best prepared squads to the Paralympic Games,” said Paralympic Equestrian Team Leader, David Hunter.
“The five riders and their support teams have worked extremely hard all the way through the selection process and my heartfelt congratulations goes to them; as well as my condolences to those who did not make the squad.
Since Beijing the team has continued their medal-winning form: in 2010 the British Equestrian squad won thirteen medals at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, including team and six individual golds, three individual silvers and three individual bronze medals. Three of the selected athletes – Criddle, Baker and Wells – competed in the all-female Equestrian team at the 2011 European Championships which brought home eight gold medals and a silver.
The athletes selected are:
- Grade Ia – Sophie Christiansen: Maidenhead, Berkshire (Born: Ascot)riding her own Janeiro 6
- Grade Ib – Lee Pearson: Staffordshire (Born: Stoke on Trent) riding Mr & Mrs D Pearson, Gillian Chinn and his own Gentleman
- Grade II – Natasha Baker: Uxbridge, Middlesex (Born: Hammersmith, London) riding Mr C Landolt, Mr & Mrs P Baker and Mrs D Alder’s Cabral
- Grade III – Deborah Criddle: Taunton, Somerset riding The Lady Joseph Trust’s LJT Akilles
- Grade IV – Sophie Wells: Newark, Nottinghamshire (Born: Lincoln) riding Dr Jackie Walker’s Pinocchio
Anne Dunham has been named as first reserve with Mrs Sally Anne Brown’s Teddy. Lee Pearson and Sophie Wells are both selected with direct reserve horses - Lee on Zion and Sophie with Valerius. The team, consisting of four riders from those named above, will be announced at a later date.