Paras get off to a flying start

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Britain made a fantastic start to the Paralympic Games, winning both grades that took place today. Grade Ia team rider Lee Pearson scored 74.682% despite having a difficult ride on 11-year-old 17.1hh gelding Gentleman in the rain.

Lee said: “He used the conditions as an excuse really. We live in Staffordshire, so he should know better. He was fine in the warm-up arena, but the rain caused him to a bit more tucked up in the arena. Basically, the engine dropped out of his backside and I had to encourage him to take the contact. It was not my worst test, but not my best. I will talk to the squad trainer; maybe we will slightly adjust the warm-up.”

Lee held on to his lead despite making an error of course, riding the circles the wrong way round: “It was complete rider error. I have been reading the test for a week non-stop, I was reading it last night and this morning, but I normally do something stupid at Paralympic Games.”

Austria’s Pepo Puch and the 15-year-old Hanoverian Fine Feeling took the runner-up slot on 73.636% with Australia’s Joann Formosa and Worldwide PB taking third with 71.955%.

Competing at her first Paralympic Games, 22-year-old Grade II rider Natasha Baker was sixth to go in the first test of the games and scored a personal best of 76.095% to win the class with ease.

Riding as an individual, Natasha was riding the 11-year-old 16.2hh bay gelding Cabral, said: “He has been as cool as a cucumber since we’ve arrived, eating well and everything.

“I’ve done loads of work with the psychologist to prepare for this event – same s***, different arena – just as I did for the Europeans last year, but you can’t replicate this amount of people, the noise and atmosphere.

“I needed to be the one responsible and stay cool, calm and collected. He had a few ‘looky’ moments and spooked in the 10m circle, so I gave him a pat to settle him. I loved every single second and can’t wait for Saturday; I believe we can do even better.”

Natasha would like to thank every everyone who has sent their best wishes: “It’s been going crazy on Twitter and Facebook, so I had to switch my phone off this morning.”

Germany’s Britta Napel took second place riding the 14-year-old Aquilina on more than 72%. Competing at her third Paralympics, the 46-year-old rider won the individual gold and freestyle bronze in 2008.

Third place went to Canada’s Lauren Barwick and Off To Paris, an 11-year-old Oldenburger by Welthit.

The team medals will be determined by adding together each athlete’s percentage score in the team test (taking place today and tomorrow) and the individual championship test, which is on over the weekend. The combined results of the top three athletes in each team will determine the team score.

Results Team Test – Grade Ib

1, Lee Pearson (Gentleman) GBR 74.682%
2, Pepo Puch (Fine Feeling) AUT 73.636%
3, Joann Formosa (Worldwide PB) AUS 71.955%

Team Test – Grade II

1, Natasha Baker (Cabral) GBR 76.095%
2, Britta T Napel (Aquilina 3) GER 72.571%
3, Lauren Barwick (Off To Paris) CAN 69.095%

British start times for tomorrow:

Grade IV, Sophie Wells (Pinocchio) 10.38am
Grade III, Deb Criddle (LJT Akilles) 1.51pm
Grade Ia, Sophie Christiansen (Janeiro 6) 5.27pm

For more details, visit www.london2012.com

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