For the first time in two Paralympic Games a new Para-dressage grade III individual champion will be decided Tuesday (13 September) at the Olympic Equestrian Centre in Deodoro.
The title was won in Beijing 2008 and London 2012 by Germany’s Hannelore Brenner. However, her plans to defend her title in Rio were scrapped when her horse picked up an injury shortly before she was due to fly to Rio.
In the competition, riders will again perform the same set routine, which will be harder than the team tests they have performed so far. Scores from each grade’s individual test will also count towards the overall team score in the team competition too.
On paper the competition will be between the Netherlands’ world freestyle champion Sane Voets, and Norway’s Ann Cathrin Lubbe. Lubbe won Sunday’s (11 September) team test, with Voets closely behind. However, both also face competition from Denmark’s Susanne Sunesen and Annika Lykke Dalskov Risum, while double Beijing 2008 champion Philippa Johnson-Dwyer could also contend for a medal.
And there will be huge home support for Brazil’s Rodolfo Riskalla. The former national dressage team member, who converted to Para-dressage following a bout of meningitis which led to the amputation of his feet and the loss of some fingers, will be wanting to improve his standing from the team test.
Whatever happens, Riskalla is relishing the experience. “It’s amazing to be here in Rio in this big stadium with many people cheering,” he said. “We are home and we need to put everyone into the horse sport for Rio.”
The day’s proceedings start with the final team test for grade II riders. This will be the spectators’ first chance to see Great Britain’s Natasha Baker, the double London 2012 champion, go head to head with her closest rival, the Netherlands’ current World and European champion, Rixt Van Der Horst.
The pair are expected to be in the battle for the medals in their grade, but should not rule out competition from the likes of the USA’s Rebecca Hart (fourth in London and Beijing), Germany’s Steffen Zeibig, and the Netherlands’ Demi Vermeulen.