Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Para-equestrian dressage competition got underway Sunday at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. Twenty-seven Grade III and Ib competitors representing 24 countries took to the main arena at the Deodoro Equestrian Center to perform the Team test, the first of two tests in team competition. Angela Peavy (Grade III) and Sydney Collier (Grade Ib) got the U.S. team off to a solid start, putting the U.S. provisionally into third place among the 14 nations, following day one of team competition. Five nations turned in one of their four Team test scores, while another three will not see their first athletes until tomorrow. Leading the team standings currently is France, while Denmark sits in second place. Both countries posted three of their four Team test scores.
U.S. Chef d’Equipe Kai Handt is pleased with how well the team is coming together, “We have an excellent team of strong riders here in Rio. We have some very young riders who started in this sport a few years ago, and they have been growing together, working and supporting each other. They are all at a good place mentally and are showcasing good readiness for this level of competition. We will see what the next couple of days brings. These are the best horses and riders in the world and the competition is going to be tough. We have an outstanding support team behind these riders that has been working tirelessly to take care of us and the horses. We are very grateful to the Team USA sponsors who have made all of this possible and to the organizing committee and officials – this is a superb venue.”
The Grade III Team test commenced the competition in the morning session with 16 athletes representing 13 nations. Pathfinding for the U.S. was first-time Paralympian Peavy (Avon, Conn. and Wellington, Fla.) riding Heather Blitz and Rebecca Reno’s Lancelot Warrior, a 2002 Hanoverian gelding. The pair produced a notably consistent and accurate test that featured a fluid and precise canter tour to earn a score of 68.974%, placing them sixth in the class.
“I was very pleased with my ride,” said Peavy. “My horse really poured his heart out – he was focused on his job and I felt like we had great connection. It was such an incredible atmosphere to be in with so many spectators.”
Looking forward to the Individual test on Tuesday, Peavy said she plans to, “Keep doing what I’ve been doing. Today we came out and put our all into it and that’s what we want to do again – ride another smooth and accurate test.”
Speaking to her first-time Paralympic experience thus far, she commented “It’s been a great experience. We have a very close team and are all very supportive of each other. All of the accommodations for the athletes in the village and the horses at the venue are very nice. It is a nerve racking and exciting event to be at, but when I got on Lance today and it was just me and him, I was able to totally focus on him and our performance. I am so thankful to everyone who has been supporting me, especially my parents, trainer Heather, and groom Alex.”
The afternoon session saw 11 athletes from 11 nations in the Grade Ib Team test. Representing the U.S. was the youngest athlete in the field, Collier (Ann Arbor, Mich.), competing in her first Paralympics with Wesley Dunham’s 2003 Oldenburg mare Western Rose. In the impressive atmosphere and heat of the afternoon, Collier was able to deliver a clean test, scoring 66.440% and placing ninth in the class.
“I was really happy with the test,” said Collier. “For this being my first time riding in the Paralympics, it was really great. Rosie was such a good horse and we really nailed our geometry today. I am really looking forward to what the future holds [this week]. I am so lucky to be with amazing teammates; I couldn’t make it without them. They really are my rock and we are a super strong team.”
Team tests will continue on Monday with Grades Ia and IV. Riding in Grade Ia, Margaret McIntosh will compete for the U.S. Team, while Roxanne Trunnell will represent the country as an individual.
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