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Paralympic Sports: Equestrian

Tryon 2018: Stinna Tange Kaastrup’s stunning win

First final sees Danish rider capture first Worlds title 19 Sep 2018
By Rob Howell | For the IPC

Denmark’s Stinna Tange Kaastrup made her global golden breakthrough in the Para dressage competition at the 2018 World Equestrian Games(WEG) on Tuesday (18 September) in Tryon, USA.

A double bronze medallist at the 2016 Paralympic Games and regular medallist at European Championships, the Danish rider captured her first world title after winning the grade II individual competition. She rode Horsebo Smarties to score 72.735% ahead of Austria’s multi-world, European and Paralympic champion Pepo Puch; and the Netherlands’ Nicole den Dulk in second and third, respectively.

Speaking after the medal ceremony, and holding her medal tightly, an emotional Tange Kaastrup said: “It’s beautiful isn’t it? I really love that horse so much. To be able to share this with him means a lot, it really does. It really hit me in there [at the medal ceremony] when he came in. We have such a special bond.”

Tange Kaastrup’s win was even more impressive given a slight stumble in her test when she forgot one of the moves and had to restart, costing her two marks.

“I was really affected by the heat,” she said. “We trained in T-shirts in all the training sessions and then I had to put the coat on today and it put me under a lot of pressure because it was so warm. I lost focus a little because of it and I am annoyed about that but it’s a learning.”

Victorious Voets

In the grade IV competition, Netherlands’ Sanne Voets got her WEG off to the best start by winning her first global individual title. Riding Demantur N.O.P., she scored 73.927 per cent, ahead of Brazil’s Rodolpho Riskalla, who took silver in his first major international medal. Susanne Jensby Sunesen added to the Danish haul with bronze.

Voets, the current world and Paralympic freestyle champion, was the first rider in the arena in her grade (and on the day itself) and said: “Nobody wants to be the first to go but it doesn’t change the job, you just have to do what you do and do it best, I think we smashed it. The first bit is done, we’ve started now so let’s rock and rumble for the rest of the week.”

WEG glory for Wells

First to ride appeared a lucky position, as Great Britain’s Sophie Wells took gold in the grade V competition, where she was also the first into the arena. Her score, on C Fatal Attraction, of 75.429 per cent – the highest of the day – was comfortably enough to knock Netherlands’ Frank Hosmar into second and Germany’s debut rider Regine Mispelkamp into bronze.

“I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet to be honest,” Wells said. “Sitting there and watching [the final riders] was awful, but it’s amazing, I’m so chuffed. You have different challenges through every part of your career, and every horse means something slightly different. I missed out in Normandy [WEG 2014] and you feel like you wait a long time to get the chance to do it again. I’m just so proud of him, it’s been a long journey like it has been for everyone else, and it just means a lot.”

Pearson pulls out

Wells’ teammate, the multi-Paralympic, world and European champion Lee Pearson added to the drama of the day in the grade II competition when he retired his horse, Styletta, around half way through his test.

“Styletta seems to be struggling a bit with the humidity here,” Pearson said. “She’s only nine years old. She’s a spectacularly powerful horse and each day she’s been here she’s been feeling like she’s struggling a bit with the weather.

“I didn’t want to retire. I’m passionate about doing my best in the arena for my country but felt that it was the right thing to do.”

Retiring from the individual contest rules Pearson out of Saturday’s (22 September) freestyle competition but he remains scheduled to ride in the team competition on Thursday (20 September). His withdrawal will cause some concern in the British camp though, as they have yet to be beaten in the team competition at European, Worlds or Paralympics level, and need a top-three finish to guarantee a place at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

Wednesday’s competition (19 September) sees the final two medals in the individual competition decided as the grade III and grade I riders take to the arena, and you can watch it live right here on the International Paralympic Committee’s website.