Riders make final push for Rio 2016 selection

Para-equestrian riders from around the world are in Deauville for shots at representing their nations at the Paralympics. 07 Apr 2016
Laurentia Tan
ⒸGetty Images
By Rob Howell | For the IPC

Some 17 nations from as far afield as New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa and the USA will join their European counterparts at the annual four-star para-equestrian dressage competition in Deauville, France, from 8-10 April.

Around 50 riders and their horses are scheduled to compete in the competition, which marks the final qualifying period for places at this summer’s Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Thirty nations have already been confirmed for Rio, and now athletes are chasing selection by their respective nations with the deadline being 19 June.

The usual three titles – team, individual and freestyle – will be up for grabs in Deauville, and Great Britain will once again be looking to retain their team title ahead of strong competition from the Netherlands.

Among those competing are London 2012 Paralympic Games medallists Laurentia Tan of Singapore, Great Britain’s Anne Dunham and Deb Criddle from Great Britain, the Netherlands’ Frank Hosmars, Ireland’s Helen Kearney, and South Africa’s Beijing 2008 double gold medallist Philippa Johnson-Dwyer.

Austria’s popular rider Pepo Puch will be present, as will Great Britain’s defending Paralympic champion Sophie Christiansen, who returns to the scene of her double European Championship 2015 triumph.

Some serious up-and-coming riders, who could contend for qualification and medals in Rio will also compete in France. They include the USA’s Rebecca Hart, who narrowly missed out on the podium in London, and Australians Chelsea Higgins and Lizzie Sobecki, who both made impressive international debuts at the Alltech International Equestrian Federation (FEI) World Equestrian Games in 2014.

Brazil will also send six riders to France. As hosts of the Paralympic Games, Brazil automatically receives four places for Rio. For them, Deauville will be an ideal place for riders to test the international field.

Brazil’s grade Ia rider Sergio Froes Ribeiro de Oliva said: “At Deauville I hope to get a good score and, in the end, a win for Brazil. But the most important thing is to represent my country and to be classified for Rio.”

Full details of the competition can be found on the event website.