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Aiming for Rio: It’s almost a wrap

Paralympics next!

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Tanya and the Olympic ringsSo has come and gone a very exciting time for South African equestrian sport, with our first ever representation for South Africa at the Olympic Games in dressage. Although our hopes of fielding a South African team were dashed at the qualifying show in Perl-Borg by a mere fraction of a percentage point by Japan, Tanya Seymour managed to secure SA an individual spot at the Olympics. I was extraordinarily fortunate enough to be on maternity leave which meant I could sit glued to the television screen for over a week of riveting eventing, dressage and show jumping (in between burping, bathing and feeding).  It was so inspirational!  A huge congratulations to Tanya Seymour for representing our country so well.  I am sure I was not the only one holding my breath throughout the test..!  Wishing Philippa all the best for the Paralympics coming up in September!

As a wrap up to our Aiming for Rio campaign, we caught up with our riders who were campaigning for Rio about what the campaign meant for them:

Tanya - watermark-2Tanya: “We started aiming for Rio shortly after WEG 2014 in Caen.  It is amazing how fast the time has flown by!  Our main focus after WEG was to work on my horse’s connection and improving his overall strength.  The hard work paid off with our scores increasing by 5%.  This resulted in our great round in Perl last year where we won the individual spot for SA.  It has been such an amazing journey and a life-long dream to represent SA at such a high level.  It has been a result of years of hard work and an amazing support from all around the world making this happen.  I’ve dreamed of this since I was a child, and to be part of making our mark (SA) on the international scene has been incredible.”

Denise Hallion - watermark-2Denise: “Campaigning for Rio has been an amazing journey and the end goal of representing your country at the Olympics is something special, a feeling which is very hard to describe and such a big driving force.  There are so many factors one has to deal with in this sport and the most beautiful part of it is the relationship I have built with Verve (Wervelwind) .  When I work with him we are in our own little bubble and the hours, days, months, in fact, years training him have been totally worth it and I am excited about the years ahead.  The journey involves a team of people who help you get there and I am lucky to have a great team of people working with Verve and I to achieve our goals.  I am grateful to my family, friends and professionals who work with me to make it all possible.  I am proud of having been selected a reserve rider for SA at the Rio Olympics.

 “The journey involves a team of people who help you get there”

Catherine - watermark-8Catherine: “It was an experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life.  I am so blessed to have had this amazing opportunity.  I love what I do and I hope to inspire all athletes to dream big.  If you are determined, dedicated and disciplined the world is your oyster!  I feel very privileged and I am grateful for the care and help from all the people whom have supported me.”

“I feel very privileged and I am grateful for the care and help from all the people whom have supported me”

Gretha - watermark-5Gretha: “Growth is something that is inevitable if one actively strives to reach a goal like the Olympics. This whole period of campaigning for Rio has just made it even more clear to me that THIS, this sport is my life and what I want to do till the end of time. It showed me just how big my determination is to eventually reach my goals I set out for myself. It has been a time of reinforcement for me that if you truly work hard for what you want in life, you will reach success.  It may not be an easy journey or at a time you want it, but just may be when you least expect it.  This period has meant that I have grown – grown in too many ways to even mention, emotionally, in my riding capabilities, as a competitor, as a trainer and as a horsewoman.  Horsewoman meaning it has been a period of such satisfaction to know that my beliefs of what dressage is about and the high level of connection that needs to be present between one and your horse is non-negotiable. Trust, patience and belief are the basis for everything in this sport.”

“The high level of connection that needs to be present between one and your horse is non-negotiable”

Nicole - watermark-4Nicole: “The time I have spent over the last year and a half, since January last year when qualification began has been rather interesting, to say the least… There have been several ups and downs, as there usually are with horses. 2015 started well, as I attained the two minimum eligibility scores in my first competitions of the year, so that removed some of the pressure that I had previously experienced campaigning for the London Olympics four years ago.  Of course there is no comparison in terms of my level of experience, level of training and relationship with my horse.  Thinking back I realize what a difference a couple of years can make.  I think I owe most of the credit to my incredible trainer Hubertus Schmidt for helping me figure out how to turn Victoria’s excess energy, nerves and excitement into positive tension to use to my advantage.  So my year started relatively well, with several good competitions, but just before one of the team selection events (Hickstead) for the Olympic Team Qualifier held in Perl, Victoria became injured.  It was not severe, but it meant some time off and missing some competitions that could have helped with ranking points.  However, she came back very well and we competed in Perl and she did a fantastic job, and we had one of our best tests (second only to our 2014 WEG test), but unfortunately we narrowly missed attaining a team place for Rio.  I continued competing her with the hope of attaining enough ranking points to secure a second individual spot, competing in several indoor shows.  The last before the cut-off date for qualifications held in Lier was not a great success, to say the least…  Victoria was very hot and much too excited in the first test, and in the second test she was much better and I had a good feeling but unfortunately it was not enough to overtake Palestine in the rankings.  In the lead up to selection for the spot for Rio itself we had several shows planned, first CDI Hagen, then CDI Hamburg.  Just before Hagen she got a spider bite on the inside of her upper hind leg, which swelled up so badly that she could only walk for one week as it was so painful for her.  She recovered in time for Hamburg, but the day before we were due to leave she injured herself and, though it was not severe, it meant she was out of training and work for some time and therefore unable to compete.  As she is 18, and she has given me so much I thought it was only fair to her to give her a lot of time to recover and regain fitness, and for her to decide if she wanted to continue with the serious work.  She came back into full work again and is fit and as determined to work as ever!  However, I sort of took all the setbacks as a sign that Rio was not really meant to be for me. It would have been a fantastic achievement to have gone, but this is not my year for it. I am very excited for Tanya as she has had a great season!

“I owe most of the credit to my incredible trainer Hubertus Schmidt for helping me figure out how to turn Victoria’s excess energy, nerves and excitement into positive tension to use to my advantage”

Philippa Johnson-Dwyer at the ParalympicsThe next focus is on Philippa Johnson-Dwyer who will be representing SA in dressage at the Paralympic  Games.  Philippa had the following to say about her campaign:

“It’s only really now that Rio is making it’s presence felt, yes it is always my goal but when working with my horses I tend to be focused on the job at hand, be it training a new movement or for the next competition.  I think if I were only to focus on Rio I would find it far to daunting. But now I can really start enjoying the whole process.”

Good luck Pips!

 

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