The next day it was my turn for our Individual test. I’m glad Grade IV were early in the day as I’m not a fan of waiting around, so we had the same routine as before, and Helen treated my legs before my boots went on this time, all about prevention being better than cure. Noki felt good warming up, focused, but the timings didn’t run as smoothly as the last test, and we had a problem getting my training radios off and then didn’t get a chance to do my pirouettes before going in. Noki was a little more apprehensive going into the stadium for the second time, probably because on the first he didn’t know what to expect, so he did get a little tense. But he stayed with me. The test started well, and now I’m stronger within my position I’m not compensating so much for the lateral work or when he goes against me. I had to try and get a little more relaxation into the walk in the Individual, as in the Team test he was a little tense, but there is also a fine line between having him pinging enough for all the advanced work and extensions, then soft enough for the walk work. I really tried to use every inch of the arena to my advantage, and it was all going well until my first medium canter on the diagonal, we came to collected, then it’s a short length of counter canter to a simple change near the corner. I collected him but we obviously had a small miscommunication and he trotted before the simple change. It’s a small mistake that magnifies with it being an important movement, and also comes off the submission mark. I knew at that point I had blown it… That’s just how it is, you can’t win a Gold medal with mistakes unless your close rivals have mistakes too. I knew unless I was to get 10s for the next few movements I would have lost Gold. It didn’t stop me riding the rest of the test, but that’s horses, and I take responsibility for that. We came out half a percent behind Michele George, close, but just not good enough. I am thrilled to come away with the Silver individually, but of course there is part of me that is disappointed. I think if any elite athlete tells you they are happy to settle for less than Gold it’s a lie, just because we are all going for Gold, that’s why we are there, and have got to the level we have, we train to be the best. But at the same time having a good past record puts pressure on you to do the same again, and people sometimes think it will just happen. It doesn’t. We work hard every day trying to cover every angle, improve every part of the puzzle – because Gold medals don’t come that easy, in fact any medal doesn’t come that easy. Our real aim was to come to London and have 3 good tests, because besides the medal targets, I really wanted to feel like I could ride Noki in the arena and produce the harmony we have been training so long for. I wanted to show Noki off at his best and for myself personally I wanted to be someone my trainer, my owners and my whole team could be proud of. I feel I achieved that, I know I definitely felt so proud watching him walk in for his prize giving, it’s such a team effort, and we have come so far with him, that’s my Gold medal.
I’m thrilled that the team won Gold. We had secured it before Sophie Christiansen went in to do her Individual test. Any 3 of the 4 combination scores could have been taken and we would have still won! We won with a Paralympic record score, and Noki and I were the second highest combination.
The 1st September was the first day for individual medals. Tash was early in the Grade IIs again, so I was there early to cheer her on! She rode fab and got a great score, but the 2 German riders put up strong performances which ended up a very close Silver and Bronze in the end. When we found out Tash had won Gold, Lucy jumped on the back of my scooter and we scooted round the other side of the stadium to see her, I knew she would be crying and her mum Lorraine, and then we were all crying. I tell you, it’s catching!! It was what we had dreamed of, and I was so proud of her for doing it! I don’t think I have ever cried so many happy tears for someone else when Tash got on the podium and got her medal, hearing the National Anthem. I was a mess! I had to have serious words with myself after that, as I was pretty exhausted that night, and couldn’t waste any more emotional energy!! Noki went well again in training, we did enough to get him ready for the next day’s competition, but not too much so he would be tired! It’s a fine balance! The British team are so lucky to have the support of UK Sport and Lottery Funding to enable us to have so many support staff to help us do our job. Mark Fisher, the saddler, was there every time I rode to alter the saddle if necessary, as Noki had changed shape through ‘fittening’ up in the last few weeks, so we had a few slipping issues, but all of them sorted immediately by Mark.
Lee went well in his test for a Silver medal, Lee has made it no secret that Gentleman is a bit tricky, and he found that going into the tests there. Lee has been on top for so long, people often say it’s not getting to the top that’s the hardest, it’s staying there, and that certainly is true!
…so the first day of competition arrived, and it was the Grade II and Grade Ib kicking things off. Tash wasn’t exactly quiet when she got up at 5am to get ready as she was competing at 9.30 in the morning!! But it was something we both had to get used to as we competed on alternate days so every morning was early! I decided to get up early too and go down to ride before Tash did her test to get it out the way before it got really busy. Noki went well and was feeling ready to start his competition the following day! Tash kicked off in style, going early in a big class, she scored a massive 76% to put her in the lead! But it was a long wait to see if she had done it, but she had and by quite a margin. The weather wasn’t brilliant, so the organisers decided to put sandbags around the arena to stop the boards being blown away. A few riders had problems, as the sand bags were not there when we did the familiarisation, which Petra (Dutch Grade II) complained about. However it was the same for everyone and it was done for safety. I was then treated by Karen and Helen, my pelvis was slightly out and my legs were still bad, so everywhere I went I had my hot water bottle stuffed down my coat, and had some treatment and acupuncture, which, although I don’t like, my legs respond well to, and because they were very tight it wasn’t the most pain free treatment either.
We tried to keep my pre performance routine the same, although it was a bit difficult when Ange was in a different place to me. A 6am start to get the bus to Greenwich, the ‘grab and go’ carts were a god send at that time of the morning, and although the dining hall was vast, it wasn’t quick. I went through my test with Ange as normal before getting on, but as I was putting my boots on and zipping them up it caused my left leg to cramp because of the restriction… so it was great to have Helen on hand (and the hot water bottle) to massage and apply heat to try and settle it down. Luckily we allow for this sort of thing to happen. The warm up went well. Because there were so many arenas, they had each rider in their own arena for the last 25 minutes of their warm up, so there was no dodging other riders and we could just concentrate on ourselves. Noki, Ange and me!
It was very strict with timings so 2 and a half minutes before your test time you have to leave the warm up to walk to the holding area before they take you through the chute to the stadium. It was a good place to do a couple of canter pirouettes to just make him sit a bit more before going in. I trotted through the chute as I thought if he walked in it would give him the chance to be taken aback by the atmosphere in there, so we trotted in, and because it was a British rider, the crowd couldn’t contain themselves and cheered as we entered. I have to say though, that is one of the standout moments of the Games for me. The first time of entering that arena for competition, feeling the atmosphere, seeing the background of the Queen’s House and Canary Warf, and hearing the crowd go crazy for just entering. It was really special. But, we had a job to do! The arena felt calming actually. Although there was the magnitude of the occasion, it felt like the crowd and judges were far enough away from the arena that you had space to do your job without feeling everyone was on top of you. It was quite quiet in there too, even though in the stands the music was quite loud, you could only really hear the shrieks of children. Anyway, I rode my ass off in there, and it totally paid off. Noki was an absolute star, when everyone cheered going in I could feel him pause and look with his eyes, I patted him and it was as if he went ‘ok Mum, that’s cool, I can do this’. You definitely had to have a relationship with your horse for it not to affect them in there and that showed! I couldn’t have been more pleased with my test, he listened to me, we did what we had practised, and we nailed a lot of movements we had really worked on, like the medium canter on a 20m circle which is quite horrible. It was only when we halted and saluted (which we got a 10 for!!) that we really noticed the crowds!! I had to take a minute walking out of the arena to really just take in how many people were there, and how crazy they were going after the test! It was amazing!! I’m so grateful to have the ride on Noki, and so proud of him for trying his best for me in that test. It was very emotional when I came out and was greeted by my support team headed by Ange and a lot of them started crying too! After all, this is what we work for!! The feeling is something I just can’t describe, but it is the best feeling. I don’t ride for these competitions, I ride because I love my horses and love training them, I’m very lucky that this can take us to competitions like this and be rewarded for that. When the score was announced I couldn’t believe it, it was a personal best internationally, I couldn’t ask for more. I did a fairly emotional interview on Channel 4 after that as we are ushered down to the ‘mixed zone’, where all the press are, straight after we get off. I’m known for not being that emotional, we don’t really do crying, unlike my roommate Tash haha, I must have caught it from her! We worked our way through the mixed zone and then at the end a crowd of people had gathered at the accredited entrance, everyone wanted photos and autographs, it was amazing! A bit of a celebrity moment, and a bit surreal, but I’m so grateful for all the support we have received. After that we made our way to the newly named pub ‘Gold and Saddle’ after the amazing equestrian success of Team GB at the Olympics, to meet Jackie and Neil, Noki’s owners, for lunch and my boyfriend and his brother. It was lovely to see everyone as we didn’t get much chance while we were in the ‘bubble’.
At the end of the first two days, all the team riders (Lee, Deb, Sophie and myself) had got really good 70%+ scores for the Team test which put us in the lead overnight. No partying that night, not until the end of all competition as we still had a lot of work to do!!
…Tuesday was the last chance for us to get into the field of play, so we all decided we would like a run through of one of our tests. I chose the Team test as we had had a lot of emphasis on it from the team as it was quite important to go towards the team medal, that GB have never lost at a major championship since the sport began in 1996. No pressure! So I trotted through the chute, and straight in, dodging the other riders, but got a good feel as to what it would be like, and let Noki know that going in there meant business, and I could make any corrections then too.
The next day was trot up day! The horses were turned out immaculately, Michelle Tipper was grooming for me and Lee for this competition, much to Amie’s disappointment, but accreditation had to be done before she joined us. Next time! But Michelle did a great job turning them out, and thankfully all the British horses passed the trot up without a problem, so we could get on with training for that day. I only wanted to give him a stretch as he had worked for a couple of days and needed an easier day before the competition started. It’s funny how everyone’s routines are different on the team, but they all seem to work for each individual and it does show many paths lead to the same goal…
It was also the Opening Ceremony on Wednesday too. We had been strongly advised not to go, and we all, except Lee, decided to stay in. I really wanted to go, but I know all the standing around for hours in the cold would be negative to my performance, especially as I have problems with my nerves anyway. I was a bit gutted we couldn’t all watch the Opening Ceremony together with the rest of our support team, they all had a party at the hotel in Greenwich and we just had to stay in our flat, which was a bit of a downer considering what a big occasion it was. We had a TV appearance at the beginning of the ceremony at 8pm, pretty prime time! We did it at Paralympic GB House, then the girls, Lucy and Pippa (Pippa was our press officer for the games and also works for the BEF), had a girly night in, opening the balcony door so we could hear the roar of the stadium live as well as seeing it on the TV whilst wearing our very fetching white tracksuits! I would have loved to have experienced the feeling of walking in the stadium and hearing the crowd go mad for Team GB, maybe next time! It was probably a good thing we didn’t go as my legs took a turn for the worse that night. I had tried to keep things under control, I bought a scooter that I could whizz about on instead of loading my nerves with the walking, but I think the stress of the occasion, the long days, lack of sleep (as I wasn’t sleeping very well anyway while we were away), caught up and my legs suffered. People always think it’s funny when I whack out a hot water bottle which I take everywhere, along with my crutches, even in the summer. When my legs go, the nerves go into overload, my lower legs cramp up and it’s a really horrible nervy pain, that makes it difficult to walk, and I lose a lot of the power in my legs because of it. Heat really helps the muscles to try and relax and keeping weight off them helps too. I just hate not being able to do stuff. We have controlled it for a while with medication, but despite upping the dosage it couldn’t control it this time. My scooter then decided to die on me the next day, turns out the fuse had blown in the charger socket, so it had to be taken off to be mended, leaving me with my crutches. A fly then decided to try and commit suicide by flying into my eye, still being a problem hours later, leading our team doc to clean it, put anaesthetic drops in and having antibiotic drops, slightly dramatic for a pesky little fly! But the important thing was I still managed to ride and Noki was a star. I often have to carry 2 whips when my legs are bad to back up my leg aids so he is quite used to it. And as long as I can ride I’m happy…
Naturally at Asmar Equestrian we are cheering for the Canadian and American nations to do well at the Games, which yesterday hosted the dressage Grand Prix.
Asmar-sponsored American rider Adrienne Lyle was one of three riders competing at the dressage Grand Prix at Greenwich on Friday; she posted a respectable score of 69.468; “He was rather on edge today. I am basically pleased with him…” she said afterwards of her ride Wizard. We are thrilled to be supporting Adrienne and wish her all the luck in the world at Greenwich!
American team mate Tina Konyot riding Calecto V posted 70.456, while last-to-go Steffen Peters with Ravel rocketed to the top part of the scoreboard with 77.705. His result put the USA in seventh place, and him in sixth place individually, in the overall rankings.
For the Brits, Richard Davison showcased a typically polished performance to gain a score of 72.812, while British rider Charlotte Dujardin pulled a spectacular test out the of bag that scored an Olympic record breaking 83.663, and put her in the lead.
The Canadians are currently in tenth place after gaining marks that didn’t challenge the top scorers – Ashley Holzer took 71.809 with Breaking Dawn at her fourth Games, while on Thursday her team mate Jacqueline Brooks with D’Niro scored 68.526, while David Marcus was sadly and perhaps unfairly eliminated, after his horse Capital spooked at a rain poncho-clad cameraman. Very bad luck, David.
The action at Greenwich today concluded with Charlotte Dujardin for Britain in first place; Adelinde Cornelissen for the Netherlands in second; Helen Langehanenberg for Germany in third; Kristina Sprehe for Germany in fourth and Carl Hester for Britain in fifth. The team placings are Great Britain in first, followed by Germany, and then the Netherlands.
As London plays host to the 2012 Olympics, there are just 3 colours to be seen in this summer – Red, White and Blue!
2012 is certainly the year to be patriotic. We have already paid homage to all things regal by celebrating the Queen’s Diamond jubilee and adorning ourselves in fashion memorabilia from Union Jack Wellies by Hunter to the latest Tote bag covered in Corgis by Topshop. Now we need to celebrate the Olympics and support our British athletes by bringing out the Red, White and Blue and adding our own sporting twist.
If you can’t quite see yourself in a replica of Stella McCartney’s figure hugging kit designed for Team GB, then perhaps a fusion of high-performance gear along with high fashion is more your thing.
Teaming our love of the Olympics with the Union Jack, Asmar Equestrian has some gorgeous Red, White and Blue designer clothing. Their timeless Polo Shirts are the epitome of British style along with the softshell stretchy gillet type vests.
Fashion designer Noel Asmar from Asmar Equestrian is extremely excited about the 2012 Olympics and has been influenced by the latest fashion trends when designing her high performance sportswear with a British twist, she says “The 2012 Olympics is such an exciting time for Britain. It has also allowed us designers to have a little fun of our own! Red, White and Blue are great colours to work with; White is a perfect base colour and goes with almost anything. Red has the misinterpretation of being a daring colour to wear; it’s the colour of love and passion, which makes it very warming. Blue, especially Navy, is a timeless colour that can easily be dressed up or down. It’s not as ‘safe’ as black, making it the perfect colour no matter what the occasion.”
Noel continues, “Our entire clothing range incorporates the classic British style with strong hints of fashion, something we hope this year’s Olympians will love!”
Whether you are a sporting person looking for a British style this year, or simply want to support Team GB, then the Asmar Equestrian clothing range is perfect. All of their pieces include equestrian tailoring and practical features, but are also very beautiful. They are the perfect example of functionality meeting high-end fashion.
To see all of Asmar Equestrian’s clothing range, visit www.asmarequestrian.com – UK stockists are listed on the site.
This is Lincolnshire has done a lovely article about Sophie Wells and her Olympic dream.
She will be riding her horses Pinocchio and Valerius at the Games having excelled with a clean sweep of first and second places in the Grade IV classes at the Hartpury final selection trials.
And now the 22-year-old former University of Lincoln student’s aim is to make it to the top of the podium in August.
“There is only one thing I am going for and that is gold. That is my focus and I will settle for nothing else,” she said.
“I’ve been competing a while now and I know a lot of my potential rivals.
“I’ve got my eye on them, but my sole focus is on what I do, that’s what I can control.
“It is unbelievable to be selected. I’m ecstatic with the news.
“It is something we have been working towards for a long time and I’m really looking forward to the next few months.”
The rider from Nottinghamshire border village Harby was born with Amniotic Band Syndrome and has been riding since the age of seven.
She has represented Great Britain at under-21 level and was named first reserve on her horse Touchdown II at the last Games in Beijing.
Sadly Touchdown II went lame and the dream had to be put on hold.
“I’ve learned a lot over the last few years and I’m still taking every day as it comes,” said Wells.
“Because of the disappointment of the last Games, I don’t want to miss out on this opportunity.”
Selection for the Games was not a forgone conclusion for Wells.
Despite excelling at the World Equestrian Games in 2010 where she took two gold medals in Kentucky, America, she refused to count her chickens.
“Ahead of selection I was feeling confident, but things do change,” she said.
“The selectors will have their own minds and you have little control over that. But I’m really proud of how my two horses have performed.
“They’ve done a great job to get selected and now the big challenge comes.
“They are having a week off now. They have had a busy time recently with the selection process.
“Then we’ll pick back up and the hard work ahead of the Games starts.”
Preparation is everything now for Wells.
With her place booked, the focus is on increasing the bond between her and her horses and making sure they are in top shape.
“We’ll be keeping a close eye on the fitness of the horses and their diet and keep them in the best shape possible,” she said.
“They will get a couple of treats, though. I think they can have a couple of carrots and apples as a well done for getting selected.
“They are very happy horses at the moment. They enjoy their work and work very hard.
“Every day we are building that bond of trust up. It is all about the partnership and we are working on that bond every day.
“We’ll be performing in front of big crowds at the Olympics and they will have to trust me that I can get them through the routines.”
Visit This is Lincolnshire by clicking here