(PRWEB) July 09, 2012
Lee Pearson will look to add to his nine Paralympic gold medals after being named in the ParalympicsGB dressage squad for London 2012.
Pearson will be going to his fourth Games, having won three golds at each of the previous three Paralympics at Sydney, Athens and Beijing. He is joined by Sophie Wells, Natasha Baker, Deb Criddle and Sophie Christiansen for Great Britain, who topped the medal table in equestrian at the 2008 Paralympics.
Britain won five gold medals in Beijing and extended their record of winning the team gold at every Paralympic Games since the sport was introduced at Atlanta in 1996.
Pearson said: "It’s a huge relief to get the nod and a great honour to be going to my fourth Paralympic Games - the feeling still hasn’t worn off. It feels surreal at the minute but I’m really looking forward to it; we have a very strong squad and with the home crowd behind you the support there will be great, but there will be that extra added pressure. I don’t think I’ll ever be going to a Games in this country again and I really can’t wait to get there”.
A change in rules means that GB will only send five riders compared with seven in previous Games, with Beijing silver medallist Ricky Balshaw, who fractured his back while riding last year, missing out. Anne Dunham, who won two golds and a silver in Beijing, was named as reserve rider.
Paralympic equestrian team leader David Hunter said: "Great Britain will be sending what I believe to be one of the strongest and best prepared squads to the Paralympic Games. The five riders and their support teams have worked extremely hard all the way through the selection process and my heartfelt congratulations goes to them; as well as my condolences to those who did not make the squad."
Criddle will be competing at her fourth Paralympic Games, while Christiansen will be going to her third, having won an individual bronze in Athens in 2004 and two golds in Beijing.
Baker, who along with Wells will be making her Paralympic debut, became European individual and freestyle grade II champion on her senior team debut last year. “It’s a complete dream come true," she said. "I’ve always dreamt about it since Sydney in 2000, and after 12 years of hard work it’s finally paid off. It really is the most incredible feeling ever. I’m not on cloud nine – more like 109!"
Craig Hunter, chef de mission of ParalympicsGB, said: “This team is truly world-class. I can’t wait to see how these athletes perform in London and I hope the British public will show their support for our riders by cheering them on in just over 50 days.”
Sophie Christiansen (Grade Ia) riding Janeiro 6
Lee Pearson (Grade Ib) riding Gentleman
Natasha Baker (Grade II) riding Cabral
Deborah Criddle (Grade III) riding LJT Akilles
Sophie Wells (Grade IV) riding Pinocchio
Anne Dunham has been named as first reserve.