Thursday, 6 September 2012

All done and dusted; home at last

The last day of competition at the London 2012 Equestrian Venue was another successful day for the British; Sophie Christiansen once again demonstrated her domination of 1a with Gold whilst Deborah Criddle and Sophie Wells rode their hearts out for 2 more Silvers. So the final medal haul for the GBR Para-Equestrian team was 5 Gold, 5 Silver, 1 Bronze. More medals than in Hong Kong, same number of Gold; but achieved with less athletes. Will some have wanted a different colour to their medal? Maybe but we have once again shown that GBR sits very at the head of affairs in this sport. It is a first for GBR and I suspect a first for the sport that one Nation won medals in each of the 5 Grades in both the Individual and Freestyle medals: This is what we set out to do and so I feel it is “job well done”. 

The Paralympic Equestrian Medal Table

These Games have seen a cataclysmic leap forward for the sport of Para-Equestrian Dressage. 10 Nations won medals and the quality of the horses, athletes and the standard of performances seen was demonstrated by the high marks awarded by the judges; the score that is now needed to win medals is far higher than ever in the past. 

I admit that there were a few glasses of happy juice consumed on Tuesday evening but it was still an early start on Wednesday to strip out the stables and pack all the kit in to Sarah’s horsebox for the journey back to Bedfordshire and the storage that Sarah kindly provides at home. There are also going to be some very very happy chickens at Sarah’s as they are going to have some of the netting seen at many of the venues to provide them with shade and shelter them from the wind & rain; happy chickens.

The horses, most grooms and Rod Fisher were collected by Mark Perry. Mark is a hot contender for the “going beyond the call of duty” award. On Monday he drove up to clean a certain rider’s boots...said certain rider being very very superstitious. How dare you doubt me? 

Most of the staff departed Wednesday morning although Michelle Tipper has handed in her grooming kit and moved in to the Paralympic Village to help the athletes who will stay in London (enjoying a range of social events, media commitments as well as supporting other sports).

I returned to the hotel, changed and headed up to Russell Square for a meeting with UK Sport to discuss.....the Rio 2016 funding submission. No rest for the wicked! I am home now and all unpacked. ENDEX!
The Olympic Equestrian Medal Table
 At the Olympics, 8 Nations won medals and GBR was top of the Medal Table for Equestrian. GBR Equestrian won 7.69% of the Team GB Olympic medals with 2.40% of the Team GB athletes. 10.35% of the Gold medals won by Team GB were won by Equestrian athletes.

An iconic Venue where historic architecture met modern facilities design. An equestrian venue that can be used as a benchmark for future Games and that demonstrated how a predominately “temporary” venue can have the feel of a permanent venue. A venue, that combined with the LOCOG staff, volunteers, military and officials left me very very proud to be British. Add to this the success Team GB and Paralympics GB had means I must now hunt for a different word to that of amazing. I do not think the whole experience has really sunk in. We set out to achieve more medals across more disciplines / grades combined with assisting Greenwich be the “best ever” equestrian venue. I think we achieved that and I hope that we now have a base on which we can build; united, focused and without discord. I fear the last of these hopes will only be party achieved.

Views from the top of the West Stand

One of my abiding memories will be standing right at the top of the West Stand watching a Medal Ceremony where GBR had won Gold; looking around, able to see across to the Olympic Stadium or across to the Millennium wheel it struck me just how privileged I have been to be part of a truly historic moment in history for the sport of equestrian in Great Britain.

To sum it all up;

 Farewell for now.

Monday, 3 September 2012

A day of two halves

First Half.  Golden Girl Natasha did it again; she blew the opposition away and landed a Gold medal winning 82.800%, over 5% ahead of the Silver medallist.  Natasha has had a Games to remember, her first Paralympics and well deserved by someone who has taken advantage of all the support on offer through World Class and has a dedicated and talented Team around her.  Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

Second Half.  Lee Pearson used all his talents to produce a Test in quality that would have been well beyond what most riders could have achieved on a horse that was not at the top of his game.  That is what 3 of the 5 judges thought placing him in Silver, one Judge had Lee in 5th and one had him in 11th.  Overall that put Lee in Bronze on 74.200% with Silver going to Finland with a score of 74.250%.  As I have said before, if you do not like being judged, do not do Dressage; I am not sure how much I liked Dressage this afternoon – I think that is all I will say on that subject.  Pepo Puch (AUT) thoroughly deserved Gold and heads home with two medals, a wonderful achievement and thoroughly deserved.

I think I will sign off now.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

The girls take to the floor......

We wondered whether 75.391 was enough for Lee to clinch his 10th Gold and it turned out to be a case of “oh so close”. Joann Formosa clinched Australia’s first Gold at Greenwich with 75.826% and Pepo Puch took Bronze on 75.043; oh oh so close but a Silver medal is still a great achievement.

Oh so close continued to be the cry today. A couple of mistakes meant Deborah Criddle, who was drawn first to go, had to fight back to secure Silver; she landed a 71.267% and the last to go scored 71.233% - now that is close. It was another close battle in Grade IV with Silver going to Sophie Wells with 76.323% whilst Michele George (BEL) scored 77.065% to take Gold. 

“So close” ceased with the arrival of Sophie Christiansen on the Field of Play. A superhuman effort by Sophie and Janeiro 6 posted a score of 82.750% which assured her Gold; Ireland took Silver and Singapore Bronze.

Definition of a very happy Gold medallist -

Sophie receiving her medal on the podium
The conclusion of grade Ia also allowed the Team scores to be calculated. GBR won Gold with a new Paralympic record; a Team score of 468.817. Germany scooped Silver with 440.970 but it was the calculation of Bronze that caused a number of re-counts to double, triple check; Ireland 428.313, Netherlands 428.253 – how close is that!!  

This is a quite incredible achievement by the GBR Team; they remain undefeated as a Team since equestrian was admitted to the Paralympic Games in 1996. The Team score is calculated from the three best scores but any combination of three of the riders from the four that make up the Team would still have won us Gold. Outstanding.

In Beijing we won 10 medals at the Paralympics with 5 Gold and 5 Silver. We had 7 athletes in Hong Kong, we have 5 in London. So far we are on 3 Gold and 3 Silver; a good 4 days at the office but we will all be focused on the next two days with the Freestyle Tests (dressage to music) starting tomorrow. As the scores show, it is not easy to win medals at the Paralympic Games! The quality of riding and quality of horses is so much improved from when we last saw a full range of countries in 2010.

There are many familiar faces here from the Olympic Games; some with very different jobs.  Alec Lochore (Olympic Eventing Competition Manager) is now a tractor driver!

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Will updates us during the first medal day

Armageddon is nigh. Today, a squirrel marched up the Mixed Zone while people (I was one) were being interviewed. That is wrong on so many fronts that I had to allow myself an extra large and rather yummy lunch in the IPC / FEI Friends & Family Lounge. 

Yes, through dealings that I will not enlarge on here (but essentially the generosity of ParalympicsGB) I have access to the Lounge were the Great & the Good partake in social exchanges. This is located in the Queen’s House which is the architectural gem that forms the backdrop to the glorious Field of Play that is the Greenwich Venue.

Since I last spouted forth, the GBR equestrian team have continued to perform. The second day of competition saw GBR open up a satisfying lead in the Team competition with Sophie Wells and Sophie Christiansen both winning their respective Grades and Deb Criddle just getting pipped in to second by the Germans. These “Team” tests only count towards the Team medal so what is vital is a “clear round” that sets the tone for things to come. The Sophie’s scores of 83.647 (Sophie C) and 75.906 (Sophie W) certainly set the tone for what we hope will come!

Today started with a peel of thunder; thunderous applause as Natasha Baker nailed a Paralympics record of 76.857% in the Individual Grade II test. I must admit I thought the bag; she will be on top of the Podium; but as if to demonstrate, on the Field of Play, what I have been saying for some months, the standards in para-equestrian dressage are rocketing. Britta Napel (GER) 76.048% and Angelika Trabert (GER) 76.000%. I am now off to the Doctors for an ECG cos that was too close for comfort!! Go go Natasha Baker; London 2012 hero.

Lee Pearson in the Grade Ib Individual competition next (following a break for the aforementioned lunch). Lee of course is part of the Team and the Individual Test counts towards the Team score; I know Individual for the Team a bit backside about face! Lee had his work cut out and called on all of his considerable talent and experience to land an excellent score of 75.391%.  We all now wait to see how the reminder of the riders go. Perhaps the biggest threat is Pepo Puch (AUT) who was only just behind Lee in the Team Test.

Note to Medal Presenters; turn your mobile phone off when you are presenting medals, as I am a child at heart and it must be distracting to have your phone vibrating in your pocket.......mustn’t it Mr McEwen? 

Friday, 31 August 2012

The Brits take to the arena

I hope you all stayed up to hear the head Orator of the GBR Para-Equestrian Dressage Team, David Hunter, take the Oath on behalf of coaches and Team staff.  David’s fame in Norfolk is now assured through the pages of the Norfolk Evening News although the aforementioned media outlet did report that he took the Oath on behalf of the Judges; which seeing we are a sport that relies on the clear eyes and straight brains of kinda interesting! 

Only David and Lee Pearson / Daniel Kinson (Lee’s Carer) attended the Opening Ceremony and we held a buffet in the hotel for the staff and some owners to watch the Ceremony – there was much whooping and cheering when the Orator took the stage, dressed in a manner that will have brought pride to his former Officer Cavalry colleagues.

The Green light was pushed for competition to begin at Greenwich. First on the Piste for GBR; a first time Paralympian but reigning European Grade II Champions – what can I say – wow.  We could not have asked for a better start; 76.095%, some 3.5% ahead of her closest rival.  Natasha is not in the Team so this score did not count towards the Team score but the perfect way for Natasha to say “Cabral & I have arrived; TAKE NOTE”.

The weather continued to laugh in the face of the GBR Team (many a RH Mears Riding Jacket has had to hold out against attack from above). As Lee Pearson warmed up the skies darkened, the wind became stronger and the temperature dropped. Autumn arrived accompanied by a round of applause as Lee entered the arena. Another winning test was delivered although the rain did get in to the sat nav at one point and caused a temporary glitch.  A great start for the Team with a score of 74.682%. Pepo Puch (who many will remember from his eventing days) was snapping at Lee’s heals on 73.636%.

Autumn has definitely arrived – the workload is building as attention turns to Rule revisions and most importantly the preparation and delivery to UK Sport of the “Rio 2016 Plan”. I am sure all involved with Team GB at the Olympics and ParalympicsGB at the Paralympics will readily acknowledge the value of the support we get from UK Sport; the funding (Lottery / Exchequer) is epicentral to the success that was delivered during the Olympics and I hope will be delivered during the Paralympics. Making sure the Plan (and hence the funding bid) is as detailed and understandable as possible will be my core Mission through to early October. It is then that I will be able to relax a little and have a real think about my future.