Para-Dressage Continues in London, Great Britain Leads

On this second day of competition, the remaining three Grades--IV, III, and Ia--took centre stage for their first London 2012 Paralympic outing to perform in the team test. All five Grades have now completed the team test and the all-time record holders Great Britain have taken a strong and early lead. The best three scores in the team test from each nation are added to the best three scores in the individual championships test to decide the winner. The individual championship tests will be taking place over the weekend and count for both the team score and for individual medal honors.

A cold but spirited start to the day in Grade IV
It was a beautiful but cold day in Greenwich Park with big blue skies to greet the spectators for a 9am start and another winning British performance this time by Sophie Wells, a Paralmypic debutant, but nonetheless current World and European champion. Riding Pinocchio, the 22-year-old posted an international personal best score of 75.906%, giving Great Britain a second top mark towards their overall team score. Belgium's Michele George came in second place amongst the fourteen riders competing in Grade IV, including former Paralympic Champion Philippa Johnson from South Africa and two of her team mates, Ciska Vermeulen and Ulricke Dekeyzer. Frank Hosmar, Individual silver and bronze medallist from the Alltech Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) World Equestrian Games in Kentucky also delivered the goods, with a score of 71.781 towards the Dutch team score.

Breaking the spell in Grade III
Germany's Hannelore Brenner broke the British domination in each of the Grades with a wonderful performance on Women of the World earning her the third best score of the day. It is this very same partnership that currently holds European, World, and Paralympic titles. The British are never far from the top spot, and it was Deborah Criddle, reining European Freestyle champion that slotted neatly into second place on a very respectable score of 72.926. Third place in the Grade III team test went to Denmark's Annika Dalskov, silver medallist at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in 2010 and at the 2008 Paralympic Games, riding Aros A Fenris.

Stole the Show
Just when you thought the day couldn't get any better, Sophie Christiansen (GBR) third from last to go in the Grade Ia Team test, delivered the most amazing performance riding Janeiro 6 finishing on a score of 83.765--the top score of the Games so far. Singapore's Laurentia Tan did not disappoint for her first London 2012 experience, taking second place riding Ruben James 2 much to the delight of her family and friends standing by. She was the first Asian to win an equestrian medal at the Paralympic Games in 2008 and is looking like a strong contender here--competing with Singapore's first Para-Equestrian team at a Paralympic Games. Third place in the Grade Ia Team test went to Helen Kearney on Mister Cool, giving the debutant Irish team some valuable points.

Where they stand after the Team test
Overall, the British riders took the top spot in all the Grades for the team test events with the exception of Grade III where Hannelore Brenner broke the spell to take pole position ahead of British team member Deborah Criddle. Given their remarkable performance at all levels, they are set on a course for gold and there is little that could stop them now, only the next two days will tell how they fare. Runner up position and third place however are hotly disputed with Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, the United States, Ireland, Belgium, and France battling for the coveted Paralympic medals so there will be a lot of pressure on the riders this weekend as they set out on their first individual performances whilst trying to secure points for their teams. It's been a remarkable couple of days for Ireland so far, on their first team equestrian experience at a Paralympic Games looking very determined with their top three riders claiming 3rd, 4th and 7th places.

What to expect tomorrow
Grades II and Ib take centre stage again after a day of rest for the individual championship tests where they will be competing not only for individual medals in their respective Grades but also securing the final points (from their Grades) towards the team scores.

Both start lists and complete results can be found here.

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