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Paralympic Sports: Equestrian

Tryon 2018: Dutch extend dominance

Para equestrian Worlds also sees historic medal for hosts 20 Sep 2018
By Rob Howell | For the IPC

The Netherlands continued their brilliant run in the 2018 World Equestrian Games (WEG) with Rixt van der Horst successfully defending her grade III individual title on Wednesday (19 September) in Tryon, USA.

Italy’s Sara Morganti had an emotional victory when she upgraded her WEG 2014 grade I individual silver, and the USA made Para dressage history.

New ride, same result

Van der Horst’s defence of her title came on her new horse, Findsley, on which she scored 73.735 per cent, to finish comfortably ahead of Great Britain’s Rio 2016 Paralympic triple gold medallist Natasha Baker and USA’s Rebecca Hart in silver and bronze, respectively.

“It is so amazing to be world champion again, I am really happy,” van der Horst said grinning. “During my test I didn’t realise it was that good, I wasn’t thinking about it so it’s just amazing. In the beginning I was nervous but I relaxed during the test and it got better and better. I was just enjoying my ride.

“I hoped for this,” she added, “and to be at WEG, but to get a gold medal is a dream come true again.”

An emotional Hart celebrated a bronze which clearly meant more to her having previously been fourth at the 2010 WEG in Lexington, Kentucky, and again at the 2012 Paralympics.

“I’m finally not the bridesmaid,” Hart exclaimed. “I’ve been crying for the last hour and to be able to do in on home turf with my family watching and to be the US’s first WEG medal ever. This won’t be coming off my around my neck for a long time.”

Morganti’s magic moment

A thrilling grade I contest saw Morganti improve on her WEG 2014 silver to take the gold. Once again riding Royal Delight, Morganti scored 74.740 per cent to finish ahead of Singapore’s Laurentia Tan. Germany’s Elke Philipp won the bronze medal.

Morganti’s win is extra sweet coming after a difficult couple of years. At the Rio 2016 Games, she was a favourite for a medal, only to have Royal Delight be judged not fit to ride at the vet inspection – a decision that left Morganti “devastated.”

“I had some health issues and, for a moment, I thought I couldn’t come here but I wanted to so much for my horse and my trainer,” she said, after a tearful medal ceremony. “We really wanted to do something good and even just to be here was great - but to win gold is a dream.”

“I cried and I’m crying quite a lot. I can’t even imagine my family at home,” Morganti continued. “My husband and my sister are here and all my family – my mum, my dad, my brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews are all together at home to watch it on TV.”

With all the individual test titles now decided, the Netherlands sit comfortably on top of the Para dressage medals table with two golds, a bronze and a silver, having won a medal in every class in which it has competed. Great Britain is second with one gold and one silver, and Denmark third with a gold and bronze.

Team title hots up

Thursday and Friday (21-22 September) sees two days of team competition with Great Britain yet to be defeated at European, Worlds or Paralympic levels. However, new horses and concerns over the performance of Lee Pearson’s Styletta following their retirement in Tuesday’s grade II contest means Great Britain’s defence is not, on paper, guaranteed. Couple that with great performances so far from Danish, Dutch, German and other riders, the competition is wide open.