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Virtus at Willinga Park

You may remember hearing about Virtus, probably for the first time in 2023 when Australia sent a team of 3 riders to the Virtus Global Games in Vichy France. Inspired by the story of Andrew Driffield, Sarah Sherwood and Sui Watts dream to represent Australia in Dressage and led by Heath Ryan and Mary Nitschke, so many EA members and locals raised over $80,0000 to help get the team and their families to France. It was the inspirational equestrian news item of the year. Everyone has the chance to dream big, everyone wants to be included.

So what is Virtus? Virtus is elite sport for athletes with an intellectual impairment (ll) or autism. There are 3 groups:

ll1 for athletes with an intellectual impairment
ll 2 for athletes with multiple disabilities including intellectual impairment
ll3 for athletes with autism

16 sports are offered by Virtus with over 90 nations and 500,000 athletes competing, some sports include ll classified athletes in the Paralympic Games program. Australia is one of the leading nations in many of these sports - and is the current World Champion in both live and online equestrian competition. Athletes are classified by Sport Inclusion Australia, click HERE to find out more about Virtus eligibility.

Equestrian competition has been offered internationally via online video competition since 2017. Equestrian NSW introduced Virtus live competition in 2022 as part of the ENSW Equibility Project which aimed "To increase opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in equestrian sport."

Equestrian Australia Para High Performance Lead Nick Hunter has included Virtus classes at the 3 CPEDI Paralymic Games Selection Events in 2024. The first event at Willinga Park saw 6 Virtus athletes compete: Andrew Driffield and Sui Watts (Team Gold ad Individual Gold ll1and ll2 Virtus Global Games medalists) together with Kyle Chapman (ll2) and Jodin Bell (ll3) from NSW and Sarah Sherwood and (Virtus Global Games Team Gold and Individual Silver medallist ll1) and Bella Parisi (2023 World Special Olympics Gold Medallist) from Queensland made the journey down to Bawley Point to enjoy the fabulous venue and the opportunity to be judged by international 4* Para Judges who are part of the Equestrian Ground Jury for the Paris Paralympic Games. A couple of the horses were a little overwhelmed by the surroundings which affected scores but Sarah Sherwood and her new horse Dicavalli Royal Guess have maintained their Global Games and online results winning all 3 ll1 classes with score from 69.750% to 71.913%

Article courtesy of Equestrian Australia

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