Great Britain and the Netherlands are set to dominate the team medal contest in what could be the closest fought Para equestrian dressage competition in its 20-year history at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Great Britain has won team gold at every Paralympic Games since the sport was introduced in Atlanta 1996. However, a surging Dutch team led by reigning world and European champion Rixt Van der Horst and European champion Frank Hosmar could change that.
The team competition dominates the first two-and-a-half days of the Para equestrian dressage competition in Rio, with the medal finally being decided on Thursday 15 September from a combination of the team test scores and the top scores from the following days’ individual tests.
In the individual competition, riders across the 29 nations will compete for a further 10 medals (individual and freestyle titles in each of the sport’s five grades) up for grabs during the six-day event.
The first individual gold (riders in each grade compete against each other performing the same routine) will be awarded on Tuesday 13 September, in the grade III test. Individual medals then come thick and fast on Wednesday and Thursday 14 and 15 September, with grades IV and Ib decided on Wednesday and grades II and Ia on Thursday.
The competition reaches its musical finale on Friday 16 September when the top riders from each grade will compete for the freestyle title. They will perform their own unique choreographed tests to music.
Rivalries to watch
In London 2012 the grade Ia competition was dominated by Great Britain’s Sophie Christiansen, who won three gold medals (individual, freestyle and team). Since then, however, Italy’s Sara Morganti has won the World Championship in the freestyle and currently sits a close second to Christiansen in the world rankings. Both will be challenged by Singapore’s most decorated Paralympian, Laurentia Tan, and Great Britain’s Anne Dunham, who is competing in her fifth Games.
Grade Ib is now a constant back-and-forth between Great Britain’s 10-time gold medal winning Lee Pearson and Austria’s Pepo Puch. Having won three gold medals at the Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, and Beijing 2008 Games, Pearson was beaten in both the individual and freestyle competition in London 2012, the latter by Puch. Since then Pearson retained his double world titles, while Puch is now the two-time reigning European champion. It will be fascinating to see what they, and the other riders, produce in Rio.
The Netherlands grade IV rider Frank Hosmar has been a regular fixture on the sport’s podiums, regularly picking up silver or bronze medals.
Under the tutelage of top Dutch dressage rider Adelinde Cornelissen since 2010, Hosmar took his first major gold medals at last year’s European championships in France.
That boost to his confidence puts him firmly among the top contenders in an already packed field that includes reigning double Paralympic and world champion Michele George from Belgium, and former world champion and double European silver medallist Sophie Wells of Great Britain.
Location: Olympic Equestrian Centre, Deodoro
Schedule: 11-16 September
Mark your calendars for…
Sunday 11 September -Tuesday 13 September – Team tests
Tuesday 13 September -Thursday 15 September – Individual, team medal events
Friday 16 September – Freestyle medal events
Ones to watch:
Jens Lasse Dokkan (NOR)
Para equestrian dressage marks its 20th anniversary as a Paralympic Games event this year. Norwegian rider Dokkan is the only competitor in Rio to have competed at all six Games. Two others, Great Britain’s Anne Dunham and France’s Jose Letarte, also competed at those first Games in Atlanta.
Rebecca Hart (USA), Lauren Barwick (CAN)
The USA’s Rebecca Hart and Canada’s Lauren Barwick are strong contenders to take medals, breaking the stranglehold that European teams can sometimes have on the podium. Hart was a close fourth in London while Barwick (who celebrates her birthday on the second day of the competition) won gold in Beijing, and also picked up medals at the 2014 World Championships.
Rixt van der Horst (NED)
Van der Horst is competing in her first Paralympic Games. The grade II rider, however, likes to make a good first impression. At her first World Championships in 2014, she scooped both the individual titles before doing the same again at the 2015 Europeans.
Rodolfo Riskalla (BRA)
Making his Paralympic Games debut for the home nation, 31-year-old Riskalla represented his country in dressage at international level for a number of years before stepping back from the sport in 2014. However, a bout of meningitis left him with impairments and he has now returned to the sport in its Paralympic format.
Alfonsina Maldonado (URU)
Maldonado is Uruguay’s first ever Para equestrian dressage rider to compete at a Paralympic Games.
How to follow:
Sport fans from around the world can now buy their Paralympic tickets for Rio 2016 from authorised ticket resellers (ATRs).
The IPC’s Global ATR is Jet Set Sports, and Rio 2016 tickets and packages can be purchased on the CoSport website.
Residents of Brazil can buy 2016 Paralympics tickets directly from the Rio 2016 website.
Visa International is the exclusive payment card and the official payment system for the Paralympic Games.