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Paralympics: Historic medals awarded amidst a deluge of supreme sportsmanship
2008-09-09 10:33:00    


For the superstitious, Philippa Johnson (RSA) and Benedict may have just confirmed the lucky attributes of the number 8, and if it’s considered lucky by the most populous nation in the world… then now is the time to start making plans. Indeed, she was 8th to go, scheduled for 8:26 on the 8th of September… and low and behold, she is now the ecstatic recipient of South Africa’s first ever gold medal at equestrian events of the Paralympic Games. Silver went to Athens gold medallist Ann Cathrin Lubbe from Norway riding the nonchalant, ever so gentlemanly Zanko, while bronze was picked up by one of the younger athletes competing at these Games, Australian rider Georgia Bruce.

Of course, for gold medallist Philippa Johnson, this is her second Paralympic experience and she did win silver the first time around, so whether or not the 8 had anything to do with it, is entirely debatable… She stands as an inspirational figure for South Africa and this year leads by experience the first ever South African team at the equestrian events of the Paralympic Games. Her win tonight will no doubt prove to be encouraging for many of the up and coming South African Para-equestrian athletes.

“One of the most wonderful things about Paralympics and other disabled sports is that … everyone is out here to help each other. It’s about comraderie and working together and it’s about giving back to your sport.” A sentiment which was clearly echoed at the press conference as silver medallist Ann Cathrin Lubbe congratulated the new title holder for her genuine and brilliant performance.

For Georgia Bruce, winning with Olympic shortlisted horse Victory Salute was a fantastic experience and it symbolises a coexistence of Dressage and Para Dressage riders that needs to be further developed.

Some notable performances were had this evening and in particular, four time paralympian Nathalie Bizet from France who paced fifth riding Mephisto and is planning a Tango for the freestyle. Indeed, there is still a lot at stake for the Grade IV riders, whom following a day off tomorrow will be back in the arena for the enchanting and mesmerising freestyle competition.

As for tomorrow’s schedule, there appeared to be total unanimity – a day off for the horses!

However, for Grades Ia, Ib and III, tomorrow evening will be host to the Individual Championship test with a medal ceremony planned immediately after the competition. Eyes will be riveted on six time Paralympic gold medallist, Lee Pearson competing in Grade Ib similarly for title holder Deborah Criddle in Grade III.

This will not only conclude the individual championship medals for all the Grades, but it was also reveal the new team champions….

(Credit: FEI)

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