EQUESTRIAN

Kiwis prepped for fierce competition in London

Thursday 30 August 2012, 8:13PM
By Black Balloon
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New Zealand paralympian equestriennes are on the eve of the biggest and most important rides of their lives.

Anthea Gunner and Rachel Stock along with their horses Huntingdale Incognito (Mask) and Bates Rimini Park Emmerich (Ricki) are primed and ready to go for the 2012 London Paralympics, after flying through the horse inspection overnight.

New Zealand Paralympic equestrian manager Warrick Allan says both riders and horses are looking good.

"The horses have settled into the world-class facilities at Greenwich extremely well and both are in good health," he says.

He is confident all the hard work that has gone in is about to pay dividends.

"Working with Anthea and Rachel over the past 12 months, and knowing the work, focus and effort that has gone into this campaign, it has been a privilege to be part of."

Over the past couple of days, horses and riders have been allowed to train in the main competition arena.
"This allows them to adapt to the surroundings they'll face come competition day," says Allan. "Both of them have coped really well with this environment and have shown no signs of concern. While the crowds aren't there yet, we don?t expect this to pose a problem."

The Kiwi team has been keenly watching the opposition.

"The standard of riding we've seen during training is very high and the competition is going to be fierce."
But he's confident of a top showing from the two Kiwi paralympians, who had been completely inspired by the efforts of the bronze medal-winning New Zealand eventing team at the London Olympics.

Allan is picking the biggest competition will come from British, Canadian and German riders.
On paper, Stock is angling towards a podium finish, while Gunner has continued to improve over the year and is more than capable of notching a personal best at the games.

Paralympics New Zealand required the potential of a top six finish at London, with a view to medal in 2016 at Rio, or top three in London. New Zealand?s equestrian representatives fit both criteria.

"It's huge for us to have two representatives at London," says Allan, who puts the success down to a successfully driven high performance programme.

"We almost had a third representative there too, so that speaks volumes. We said all along our riders needed to step up to represent us in London, and these two have done just that."

The Paralympics Opening Ceremony is on Wednesday (UK time), with Gunner the first rider into the competition arena the following day.

THE RUN DOWN

· The 2012 Paralympics is the biggest ever featuring 4200 athletes from 160 countries competing in 20 sports.
· The New Zealand Paralympics team has 26 athletes competing over seven sports.
· 78 combinations from all over the world will compete in equestrian.
· New Zealand has not had a equestrian paralympian since Jayne Craike at Athens in 2004.
· Craike is New Zealand's only equestrian paralympian - Athens (2004), Sydney (2000) and Atlanta (1996), where she won gold and silver medals.
· Anthea Gunner and Rachel Stock will compete in para-dressage in a 40mx20m arena.
· The 2012 Paralympics run from August 30 through to September 4.
· Equestrian first appeared at the Paralympics in 1984 and has been represented at every games since 1996.

WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR

Thursday, August 30 (UK time)
Gunner
Grade 2 team test (warm-up only, no medals)

Friday August 31 (UK time)
Stock
Grade 3 team test (warm-up only, no medals)

Saturday, September 1 (UK time)
Gunner
Grade 2 championship test (medal class)

Sunday, September 2 (UK time)
Stock
Grade 3, championship test (medal class)

Monday, September 3 (UK time)
Gunner
Grade 2, freestyle to music (medal class)

Tuesday, September 4 (UK time)
Stock
Grade 3, freestyle to music (medal class)