As para-equestrian dressage hots up on the journey toward Rio 2016, here are six key questions that could be answered at the Games.
1. Will Great Britain’s iron grip on the team gold medal finally be loosened?
The team is undefeated at European, World and Paralympic level, but the incredible rise of the Netherlands in recent years could threaten that.
2. Will up-and-coming teams reach the podium?
Russia, Canada, and the USA have shown in 2015 that they can challenge European powerhouses of Netherlands, Great Britain, Germany and Austria. Canada’s Lauren Barwick, Ashley Gowanlock and Bert Sheffield; Russia’s Natalia Martynova; and the USA’s Rebecca Hart and Sydney Collier could challenge Europe’s domination of the competition.
3. Can Great Britain’s Lee Pearson become his country’s all-time greatest Paralympian?
He currently has 10 gold medals from the Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012, level with wheelchair racer Dame Tanni Grey Thompson. Pearson, however, will face tough competition in the grade Ib contest from the likes of Austria’s Pepo Puch, the current European Champion and a gold medallist from London 2012.
4. Will the FEI make an exception?
Journey, USA rider Sydney Collier’s assistance dog, can become the first canine to receive full accreditation at a Paralympic equestrian competition and possibly capture as many hearts as he did at the Alltech International Equestrian Federation (FEI) World Equestrian Games in 2014.
5. Will Horst carry over a strong season?
At her debut Paralympic Games, the Netherlands’ Rixt Van Der Horst has an opportunity to complete the triple double of debut individual titles at European, world and Paralympic level.
6. In what will be the 20th anniversary of Para-Equestrian Dressage at the Paralympic Games, will Great Britain’s Anne Dunham be selected to represent her country?
She did at the sport’s first outing in Atlanta 1996 and the following three editions of the Games. The veteran rider has won multiple medals throughout her career and is currently No. 7 in the world rankings.