The Netherlands ended one of world sport’s longest unbeaten records when they were crowned champions in Team competition of the Adequan® Para-Dressage at Tryon 2018.
Great Britain’s Para-Dressage team had won every Paralympic, World and European Team Gold medal in the sport’s history, but an inspired Dutch team halted that imperious run at Tryon Stadium.
The Dutch quartet of Rixt van der Horst, Sanne Voets, Nicole den Dulk and Frank Hosmar thwarted a resilient British challenge to finish top on a score of 223.957%.
The British team – Sophie Wells, Sir Lee Pearson, Natasha Baker and Erin Orford – took second on 222.957%, with the Bronze medal going to Germany’s team of Regine Mispelkamp, Steffen Zeibig, Elke Philipp and Dr Angelika Trabert on 219.001%. All three countries also secured qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
In collecting a team silver, Pearson became the most decorated Para-Dressage rider in FEI World Equestrian Games™ history, gaining a seventh podium finish to add to his six previous gold medals.
Two days of team riding across five different grades effectively came down to what happened in Grade III, and the main challengers Van der Horst and Baker did not disappoint, with Baker finishing top on 74.118% aboard Mount St John Diva Dannebrog, but Horst’s 73.559% score with Findsley kept the Netherlands in charge.
It meant that the final British rider – Grade III competitor Erin Orford – had to score a personal best of 72.247% to give Britain gold, but despite a brave effort on Dior, she could only manage 69.029%.
“The pressure was on the British,” Voets said. “We came here with one aim and that was to win a team medal to qualify directly for Tokyo.”
Ultimately, that medal proved to be gold, and even though the winning margin was just 0.640%, no one could argue that when it came to consistent scoring and performances, the Netherlands discovered a winning formula.
Voets added, “It is awesome. We had this historic moment at the Olympic Games in Rio when we won the first Individual Gold and now it is the first Team Gold at WEG.
“With the team, that is even better. It is great to pull out a personal best on a day when you need it the most. It’s fantastic when it all comes together at the right time. WEG was a good test and I think we passed.”
Baker, meanwhile, said, “I had no option but to go in and ride for my life. I knew Rixt’s score going in and I knew I had to beat it. My horse was amazing in there. She was just amazing.
“I am just so proud of her, so, so proud. I was much more confident today and felt so much more prepared. If that is what we can do (as a partnership) in seven months, in another year’s time she will just grow in confidence. I absolutely adore that horse.”
Great Britain Para-Dressage performance manager Sarah Armstrong said, “Our target was to return with a team medal and we’ve done that and to qualify for Tokyo and we’ve done that. They have worked so hard, the athletes and the whole support team behind them. We knew it was going to be tough, but I am thrilled with what they’ve delivered.”
For Germany, it represented an outstanding result as they joined the Netherlands and Britain in claiming a Paralympic passport to Japan.
“It is just unbelievable,” Mispelkamp said. “It’s overwhelming. I have no words.”
Teammate Trabert added, “I was on the team since 1991 and came back only now since I have this fantastic horse. It is overwhelming to be back again.”