The High Performance Para-Dressage Tokyo Paralympic Test Event took place from 10th -15th March at the Sydney International Equestrian Centre.
The Test Event was created by the EA High Performance Program to mimic, as close as possible, the Paralympic environment in order to give potential team riders, grooms, and support staff exposure to the logistics and conditions that may be expected at the Games.
In addition to a full competition, which ran over three days, the Tokyo 2020 short listed riders, and their grooms, took part in sessions throughout the Test Event focussing on team and individual awareness, strategy, and Games preparation.
The Sydney weather provided extreme highs and lows throughout the event as the combinations entered the arena each day competing in the Individual Test, Team Test and Freestyle Tests which were judged by Wendy Barker (AUS), Mascha Reijs (NED) and Petronella Marshman (AUS).
The riders also had the opportunity to attend Individual Rider Meetings with High Performance Management in order to discuss each athletes program, preparation, and performance plan ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
High Performance Director, Chris Webb, said “the Para-Dressage Tokyo 2020 Test Event is an important component in our Paralympic preparation. The Test Event has been shaped to replicate the logistical framework of a Games and provides the opportunity for riders to experience these conditions within a team environment.”
The riders and support staff also took part in various workshops to ensure all individuals remained well informed and as prepared as possible for the Games.
Paralympics Australia ran a number of sessions to assist potential Team members in understanding the Paralympic experience which included a detailed look at logistics, operations, athlete health, mental well-being and media.
The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency (ASADA) also presented focussing on the importance of clean sport and looking at the resources available to athletes to ensure they stay up to date with the latest information and are aware how they can check supplements.
Also in attendance throughout the event was Australian Para-Dressage National Coach, Lone Jorgensen, observing the competition, and the workshop sessions.
“The Test Event is a very good idea from the High Performance Program to put the riders into the surroundings and circumstances like at a real Games, like it will be at Tokyo more or less, as much as we of course can. This is very similar to if they get picked up by the bus in the morning, get driven out here, return at a certain time in the evening, all back to the hotel and have dinner together.
The feedback from the riders has been that they have really enjoyed having these intensive days together and also learning and knowing each other better so they can learn to work with each individuals small little quirks, which is important especially when under pressure.
This is also a qualification event so the scores count, so it isn’t just for fun. The riders still need to be able to perform the best they can. For a few of the riders this has been a very important learning experience for them and it is great that we have the opportunity to do this. The riders have until now performed quite well, some have showed they can go very well under pressure directly, as there are not many riders it is very intensive here at the competition. It is all about gaining the best experience and giving us the best experience ahead of the Paralympic Games and I think we have done that here for the riders and the horses,” said Jorgensen.
The third day of competition which would decide the overall Champions for each Grade dawned cold and wet, but that wasn’t enough to dampen the riders spirits or determination as they completed their Freestyle Tests. All riders performed incredibly well in trying conditions and the overall Grade Champions were:
Grade II: Victoria Davies and Celere
Grade III: Emma Booth and Aloha Kings Ramsom
Grade IV: Sharon Jarvis and Romanos
Grade V: Stuart Drysdale and Blueberry 20
Foreign Judge, Mascha Reijs (NED) said “I have very much enjoyed my time here. I think this Test Event is a very professional approach by the High Performance team for their Tokyo Paralympic preparation”.
Article courtesy of Equestrian Australia