Rio de Janeiro, Brazil—Sept. 13
The first gold of the Rio Para Equestrian dressage competition was won by Norway’s Ann Cathrin Lübbe at the Olympic Equestrian Center.
In a thrilling and closely contended Grade III individual test Lübbe, riding Donatello, scored 72.87 percent, just a fraction of a percentage point ahead of Denmark’s Susanne Sunesen on Que Faire.
And keeping it a neighbourly affair, Sweden’s Louise Etzner Jakobsson took the bronze at this, her first Paralympic Games, riding Zernard.
Angela Peavy represented the United States in the Grade III Individual test and placed eighth with Lancelot Warrior. Peavy, from Avon, Conn., and Wellington, Fla., was one of 16 athletes representing 13 nations in the Grade III Individual test. Aboard Heather Blitz and Rebecca Reno’s Lancelot Warrior, a 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding, Peavy delivered a consistent and fluid performance for the U.S. Team with a powerful working trot.
Angela Peavy of the United States with Lancelot Warrior. Photo by Liz Gregg/FEI
Angela Peavy for the U.S. team on Lancelot Warrior. Photo courtesy of USEF
“I was very happy with ‘Lance;’ it was another great ride,” said Peavy. “He came in and did everything I asked. I could not be happier with him and what he has given me. I was happy with the results, it is our first Games and I am very excited to be where we are.”
Lübbe is a former gold medalist having won both the individual and freestyle Grade IV titles in Athens 2004, with silvers in those two events in Beijing 2008. She was clearly delighted to be back on top. “Oh, it’s good to be back,” she said. “I think it suits me. I worked so hard for it. I’m so pleased that today I was the best and the horse did so well.”
Lübbe’s win was tinged with a level of sadness however as her horse had previously belonged to a student of hers, who was killed in a road accident. “Her parents are here,” she said. “It means everything. It’s so important to me.”
Ann Cathrin Lübbe won the Grade III Individual test on Donatello for Norway. Photo by Liz Gregg/FEI
Denmark’s Sunesen was equally delighted with her silver. “I am very happy and relieved,” she said. “It means a lot. The medal is what it is all about. The coach for the Danish team, my family: it’s what we’re here for—to win the medals.”
The three Grade III Individual test medalists—(from left) Susanne Sunesen of Denmark with silver, Anne Cathrin Lübbe of Norway with gold and Louise Etzner Jakobsson of Sweden with bronze. Photo by Liz Gregg/FEI
The day started with Great Britain’s Natasha Baker wining the Grade II team test in one of the closest results of the competition so far. Riding her London 2012 double gold medal winning horse, Cabral, Baker scored 71.88 percent for the win, just ahead of second placed Demi Vermeulen of the Netherlands.
Germany’s Steffen Zeibig was third. The competition was so close that the top four riders all scored 71 percent plus.
“I had to work hard, really hard,” said Baker after her test. “He walked around OK and then he noticed the audience was here and he got a bit nervous and I had to really work with him. But I’m so proud of him. He came back to me so quickly,” she said.
“I never expected to get 71 percent and I don’t really care what I got, I’m just so proud that we recovered. He coped with it all in London but he’s turned into a diva since then—it’s all gone to his head!”
While the individual test medals start to be given out, the team competition continues, as team members’ individual scores also count towards the overall team score. At the end of Tuesday Denmark had taken the lead, with France and Australia close behind.
Competing in the Grade II Team test for the United States was Rebecca Hart, who scored 69.94 percent. Placings for the team competition are determined by combining the top three scores of each team from both the Team and Individual tests. The Individual tests will continue Wednesday and Thursday before medals are awarded at the conclusion of competition on Friday.
Riding in her third Paralympic Games, Hart, of Wellington, Fla., performed a solid test aboard Romani, a 14-year-old Danish Warmblood mare. The pair showed good connection throughout the test, scoring consistently well on its collective marks and executing beautifully at the working trot and in the serpentine to place fifth in the class.
The Grade II Team test featured 14 athletes from 11 nations with less than 1 percentage point separating the top four placing combinations.
“I was happy with how I rode and the feel that Romani gave me,” said Hart. “She is the best horse I have ever sat on and it is a privilege to ride her and represent our country. I was slightly disappointed in the score, but in saying that, this is the highest I have ever scored at a Paralympic Games.
“I want to thank my amazing support system for getting me to this point. Having Todd Flettrich, Margaret Duprey, and Fernando Ortega here with me is amazing. It takes a village to get here and I am thankful for everyone here and everyone at home. I am thrilled to be in the top five heading into our Individual test on Thursday.”