The British Para-Equestrian Dressage team – featuring three riders making their championship debuts – won silver at the FEI European Championships in Rotterdam.
Mari Durward-Akhurst, Nicky Greenhill and Georgia Wilson were joined by the more experienced World Champion Sophie Wells. They finished behind the home team – and World Equestrian Games 2018 gold-medallists – the Netherlands.
Mari Durward-Akhurst on Sky O’Hara recorded a personal best score of 70.89% when she finished sixth in her Grade I test and said “This has been an amazing experience. I couldn’t dream I would make it into the podium in my first time at a senior championships.”
Georgia Wilson, riding Midnight, beat the current Paralympic champion Pepo Puch to finish top of the Grade II standings – her score of 74.75% was a new personal best. She is coached by teammate Sophie Wells and said “Sophie has had me do so many transitions, we’ve been working really hard on them. The preparation and hard work has paid off and I was also happy with the halts and free walk, which Sophie has been nagging me on!”
Grade IV visually impaired rider Nicky Greenhill on King Edward I had to contend with the music coming from Team GBR teammate Carl Hester’s Freestyle test in the nearby Rotterdam Arena. Nicky relies on the guidance of callers to navigate the arena but braved the conditions to finish fifth. “It was hard because that music of Carl’s was very, very loud, but we got to the end! The team around me have just been amazing and I’m so grateful to them as there’s so much work going onbehind the scenes and it is fantastic to be part of that.”
Sophie Wells MBE won her 31st senior medal – she finished second in Grade V on Fatal Attraction. She said, “Historically we’ve been so strong but the other nations have put money and time into developing the sport. Have no fear though, we’ll be hunting them down in Tokyo!”
Performance Manager Georgina Sharples commented “I’m absolutely delighted. The riders have all performed phenomenally. This speaks volumes about the depth of talent in our Pathway Programme. It’s also made the selectors decisions very hard for next year in Tokyo.”
Team GBR Performance Director Vikki Underwood said “To be honest I am fairly speechless. We send a team with three combinations who have never competed on a senior team before, throw in a vast number of unforeseen challenges into the mix, and have so far come out with two silver individual medals, and a Team Silver medal! Sophie Wells is the veteran of the team and has been a massive support to the debutants, as has her coach and mentor Angela Weiss. This result continues to demonstrate GB’s domination within the sport of Para-Equestrian Dressage with a solid strength and depth of exciting combinations coming through the system. So proud .”
British Dressage Chief Executive Jason Brautigam added “We couldn’t be more proud of our team of Sophie, Georgia, Mari and Nicky. All four have surpassed expectations this week. When you consider that three of our riders were making their championship debuts, to win team silver on their first outing is a tremendous achievement. It all bodes very well for Tokyo next year, so bring on the Paralympics! We wish them all luck in the final Freestyle competition tomorrow.”
Image Credit BEF/JON STROUD MEDIA