LONDON, (FEI) – With just 24 hours to go to the London 2012 Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony, excitement and great expectations are building up in the Olympic venues dotted around the city whilst record ticket sales – over 2.2 million tickets sold – are already hailing this edition as the greatest ever.
This will be the fifth time Para-Equestrian Dressage is on the programme but it is the first time it is held in a country with such a strong Para-Equestrian culture, so strong that since it became a Paralympic sport in 1996, Great Britain has held the team title on every occasion as well as leading the individual medal count by a whopping margin.
Seventy-eight riders and 77 horses (two riders will be using the same horse) will be competing over the six days of competition from Thursday 30 August to Wednesday 4 September. The athletes are divided into five Grades (Ia, Ib, II, III, IV, V) and will be looking to impress the judges in the Team Test, Individual Championship Test and Freestyle, with 11 sets of medals up for grabs, two per Grade and the overall team medals.
There will be many familiar faces and medallists from previous Games here at Greenwich Park looking to secure the ultimate prize, and none more so than Lee Pearson, Great Britain and the world’s most successful Para-Equestrian to date, having won three gold medals (individual Championship, Freestyle and Team) at three Paralympic Games – 2000, 2004 and 2008 – taking his gold medal tally to an impressive nine.
Lee Pearson will be the most experienced team GBR member this year, competing at his fourth Paralympic Games, but he is not the most Games experienced out there, with France’s Nathalie Bizet, Norway’s Jens Lasse Dokkan and Germany’s Angelika Trabert all competing for the fifth time – which means they have attended every edition of the Paralympic Games since Equestrian sport joined the programme in 1996.
Competitors from 27 nations will be taking part in this edition with the ages of the athletes spanning over five decades, from Singapore’s 16 year old Gemma Rose Jen Foo to Canada’s Eleonore Elstone, aged 60.
The venue is ready and the horse inspection tomorrow morning will be the start of proceedings for what is set to be an incredible Paralympic experience for all the athletes, support teams, volunteers and fans. For information regarding schedules, results, start lists and more, check out the London 2012 Equestrian Hub.