Paralympic dressage quartet saddled for success | SASCOC - SASCOC

Paralympic dressage quartet saddled for success

By Mark Etheridge in London

The horsey set in Team South Africa’s set-up for the 2012 Paralympic Games will be hoping they’re dressed for success when the equestrian competition gets into its stride later this week.

The team have four riders competing after they came through a lengthy, not to mention tough, qualifying route.

All four will compete in the dressage competition. The other Paralympic equestrian event is driving (horses and carriage) but SA have no representation in this discipline. Explains team manager Tracey Cumming: “Of the four dressage riders, the best three scores will count towards the total team mark.

“They’ll ride two tests a day and there are three days of competition. Two phases of competition will be contested, the team test as well as the individual championships test.”

Belgian based Philippa Johnson is the star of this class, bringing in a wealth of experience. She won a silver medal at the 2004 Athens Paralympics and upped the bar even further in 2008 when she won two gold medals at the Beijing Paralympics.

Of course, the equestrian competition wasn’t actually in Beijing, being held in Hong Kong, largely due to better competition facilities.

Johnson won her gold medals on Benedict then switched to Verdi and has now played more musical chairs (saddles?) by opting to bring her newest horse, Lord Louis, to London.

“Yes Philippa’s on her new horse which could be seen as a big risk but it’s the right decision even thought it’s the horse’s first major competition,” says Cumming.

The remaining members of the team are Wendy Moller, Marion Milne and the ‘baby’┬á of the team, young Anthony Dawson who will celebrate his 18th birthday quite literally in the saddle and in competition mode.

They will ride First Lady, Shadow and Roffelaar respectively. They all travelled to Europe to choose their borrowed horses, a change from previous years where management was also involved in the selection of mounts.

It’s not a well documented fact but Moller will be celebrating her fourth Olympics. She started off as a swimmer at the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics and competed in the equestrian events in 2000 (Sydney) and 2004 (Athens).

Cumming is under no illusion as to the toughness of the task. “It’s going to be very hard to medal here. Philippa is our best chance but what we must be looking to do is improve on our team scores. That will be very important.”

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