Puch opens season with triple victories

The Austrian Paralympic champion was among the returning riders from Rio 2016 to take top prizes in Doha. 07 Mar 2017
Lee Pearson, Pepo Puch and Alena Rosenburg at the 2017 Al Shaqab competition in Doha, Qatar.

From left, Lee Pearson, Pepo Puch and Alena Rosenburg at the 2017 Al Shaqab competition in Doha, Qatar.

ⒸFrank Sorge
By Rob Howell | For the IPC

“We enjoy these surroundings and top quality facilities.”

Three Rio 2016 Para equestrian medallists scored hat-tricks of wins at the first major international competition since the Paralympic Games at the Al Shaqab competition held 2-4 March in Doha, Qatar.

Leading the way was Austria’s Pepo Puch on Fontainenoir. In Rio they won gold and silver in the individual and freestyle tests, respectively, in the then- grade 1b (now grade II) competition. They opened 2017 strong with victories in the individual, freestyle and team tests.

The Netherlands’ Sanne Voets, the Rio 2016 freestyle grade III champion, also won all three of her test in the now-grade IV classes on Dementur. Her teammate and double Rio 2016 bronze medallist Frank Hosmar did the same in the new grade V (then-grade IV) competition, on Alphaville. Norway’s Jens Lasse Dokkan, a sixth-placed rider at Rio 2016, also produced a hat-trick, taking the top score in all three tests in the new grade I contest (formerly grade Ia), riding Cypres.

Norway’s Jens Lasse Dokkan, a sixth-place finisher from Rio 2016, also took a hat-trick of wins in the grade I contest (formerly grade Ia), riding Cypres.

Other winners included Germany’s Steffen Zeibig, capturing the grade III freestyle crown, and the Netherlands’ Rixt van der Horst, who won the same grade’s individual competition.

Germany’s Rio 2016 bronze medallists Elke Philipp (grade I) and Zeibig (grade III), and teammate Alena Rosenberg (grade II), Belgium’s Ciska Vermeulen (grade V) and South Africa’s Philippa Johnson-Dwyer also reached the podiums. Debut medallists include Belgium’s Arthur Dieusaert in grade V and the Netherlands’s Annemarieke Roling-Nobel in the grade III freestyle competitions.

There were strong performances too from Great Britain’s Sir Lee Pearson on his up-and-coming ride Styletta. The pair were close behind Puch, especially in the freestyle, to take second place in all three tests.

Talking about the small mistakes which cost him points, particularly in the individual and team tests, Pearson said: “It was dreadful from a rider’s perspective, I forgot the test. It’s a new test and I haven’t ridden those tests even though I ‘ride’ them every night when I’m in bed, cleaning my teeth, when I am in the car travelling here but I still managed to forget.

“It’s slightly nerves and riding a young horse in such a big environment my mind is everywhere. She’s eight years old and she’s very hot and opinionated so I’m pleased with her.”

The Netherlands won the overall team competition on 431.908% with Germany in second place (415.131%) and Poland third (392.809%).

Saudi Arabia’s Ahmed Sharbatly, the brother of renowned show jumper Abdullah Alsharbatly, took part in the competition.

Puch summed up the competition: “We enjoy these surroundings and top quality facilities. It is like a Championship and we are so happy to be here. Around good riders, your riding also gets better.”