Wells And Pearson Take Gold & Silver

Sophie Wells
Credit : FEI

Thursday 15 September - 09h03 | Lulu/FEI/BEF

Wells And Pearson Take Gold & Silver

The British team at the 2016 Para Olympic Games in Rio, continued their march towards defending ther team title as Sophie Wells won an individual Gold medal in the her class. Not to be entirely outdone, individual rider Lee Pearson added a silver medal to his already record breaking collection of Olympic gongs.

Sensational Sophie

Sensational Sophie - Wells And Pearson Take Gold & Silver

A kiss for Valerius
Credit : FEI

The first day of the Individual competition saw Sophie Wells secure her Gold in the Grade IV class, twenty years after the first Gold medal in the Grade was won for GB in Atlanta. Paralympics GB flag bearer Lee Pearson took his  latest Games medal  after an impressive performance secured Silver in the Grade Ib test.

Entering the arena this morning, Sophie Wells aboard Valerius, a fourteen-year-old gelding which she has developed for the past ten years, looked ready for the challenge ahead. With a superb first centre line scoring high marks, the talented combination produced a stunning test in front of an atmospheric crowd with highlights coming in the collected trot and canter work.
With a score of 74.857% awarded, it was a tense wait for the 26-year-old with two riders left to go, including London 2012 Paralympic champion Michele George. As the final results came through there were celebrations as the Gold medal was confirmed for Sophie – her first Individual Gold at a Paralympic Games.
Commenting afterwards an emotional Sophie said; “It feels amazing, I can’t really describe it, there are no words that can describe how I’m feeling right now. I definitely feel a sense of pride, of my horse and my support team.
“It’s a very different environment at an away Paralympics having experienced  a home one; it’s a massive logistical effort and we have a massive support team through the British Federation’s World Class Programme, UK Sport and National Lottery funding, which enables us to be the best prepared.
“It’s a massive journey, it isn’t just four years, and it isn’t just this week, its years and years of work. You have hard times but this just so makes up for it. I didn’t really realise until this morning that it was our first medal-winning opportunity [in equestrian] so to go out and do that is amazing.”
With Sophie taking the Gold, Silver went to Belgium’s Michele George (FBW Rainman) with The Netherlands’ Frank Hosmar (Alphaville) taking the Bronze.

Pearson's Silver.

Pearson's Silver. - Wells And Pearson Take Gold & Silver

Lee Pearson
Credit : Jon Stroud Media

The afternoon welcomed the Grade Ib athletes to the arena for their Individual Championship tests, with Great Britain’s Lee Pearson and Zion, owned by David and Lynda Pearson, Gillian Chinn and Lee, third to enter the arena. Scoring highly in the working trot and awarded eights from the judges for rider skill, Lee finished with 74.103%.
“I was really pleased,” commented Lee after his test, “I was pleased that my halts were square, the walk work was good but I think that the trot work could have been more connected. I’m really pleased with the score, if I come away with a medal I’ll be over the moon. He was very focussed and excited to be in there.”
Sitting in the lead heading into the final four riders, it was an anxious wait to see the final placing. With the scores for the rest of the riders confirmed it was Silver for Lee, securing his thirteenth Paralympic medal for Great Britain. Gold went to reigning Paralympic Ib champion Austria’s Pepo Puch (Fontainenoir) with Stinna Kaastrup (Smarties) of Denmark securing Bronze.
Commenting after receiving his Silver medal Lee said; “Really proud and proud of my horse, he really did do his best on the day. I don’t think I could have asked for anything more; he gave me everything.”

Pepo's Golden Moment

Pepo's Golden Moment - Wells And Pearson Take Gold & Silver

Pepo Puch
Credit : FEI

In a week which has seen winners sometimes decided by fractions of a point, Puch’s one-point win over  Lee Pearson seems even more impressive. Riding Fontainenoir, Puch scored 75.103% to Pearson’s 74.103%. Denmark’s Stinna Tange Kaastrup took the bronze. Puch had previously represented his country at eventing before a horror fall during a cross country round left him with life changing injuries and move to a different equestrian sphere. This is his first Olympic title.
 
"Amazing, amazing, amazing,” said Puch. “The horse was really good, but with the wind and some babies crying, the horse was looking outside, but I could catch him. I had him on my side.
 
"He was really good and I was so happy. With the positive feeling comes the emotion and with the emotion it's not easy to handle the movement in my body. He was helping me. We were working four years for this day. The first day of London was the first day of training for Rio."
 
Fontainenoir is known at Puch’s home as Fondy Blondy. “He's the blackest blond horse ever,” said Puch. “His ex-owner says he's in the wrong body. He wants to be a dog and wants to be with you all the time."
 
Pearson was also happy with his silver, his 13th Paralympic medal in a career that started back in Sydney 2000. "I think the best man won on the day,” he said.
 
"The standard is tough. It has been up to London and since then. My aim was to go home with a medal so I’m over the moon."
 
There was a dramatic moment half way through the grade Ib competition when Canada’s Ashley Gowanlock fell from her horse after it bolted as they were leaving the arena. Gowanlock was assessed by the Rio 2016 medical staff and found to have no serious injuries before being transported to hospital for further testing as a precaution.
 
The individual Championship tests conclude on Thursday (15 September) with the grades II and Ia competitions. The overall team champions will be announced at the end of the day as well. Denmark currently lead that competition ahead of France and Australia, but with more riders from more teams due to ride, that could all change.

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