London, England - September 3, 2012 - Over the last four days Para-Equestrian Dressage athletes have had their opportunity to place their best foot forward in the Greenwich Park arena. Riders were able to show-off what they have worked towards over the last few years. The first two days of the 2012 Paralympic Equestrian competition consisted of the Team Test where Great Britain dominated four of the five grade levels. Over the last two days during the Para-Dressage Individual Test competition however, individual powerhouses overthrew Great Britain's reign. One of those athletes working towards capturing a medal was Jonathan Wentz (USA) and NTEC Richter Scale, owned by Kai Handt.
Jonathan Wentz has traveled around the country gaining experience for himself and his horses before qualifying for London and heading to the Paralympics. In 2010 at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ Wentz came close to winning a medal with NTEC Richter Scale at his first World Equestrian Games. With his hunger for more, Wentz, his trainer Kai and his support team set off to prepare for the 2012 London Games. As they prepped Richter and multiple back-up horses Wentz began winning the Grade Ib championships at many international competitions.
These wins placed him in the top ten of the FEI World Rankings where he maintained his position throughout the 2012 show season. Nothing could stand in Wentz's way as he armed himself with a stellar horse and the support of the United States Equestrian Federation's Para-Dressage team.
For the Individual Test at the London Paralympics, Wentz drew an early spot in the order just in front of Lee Pearson of Great Britain. As the horse and rider combination of Richter and Wentz executed each technical requirement the judge's scores began to increase. Although Wentz had a test that was respectable, moments of imperfection would earn him a score of 70.348%. Jonathan's position would first be moved by Lee Pearson and horse Gentleman with a 75.391%. Then Australian athlete Joann Formosa and Worldwide PB would perform a 75.826% knocking the nine-time Gold Medal athlete Lee Pearson from his podium. With only two horses to go Pepo Puch of Austria and horse Fine Feeling would push Wentz into fourth place.
"We are proud of Jonathan," noted horse owner and trainer Kai Handt. Out of the United States Equestrian Federation's Eventing, Show Jumping, able-bodied Dressage, and Para-Dressage placing thus far Wentz has the highest placing of any of the United States Equestrian Team members.
"There's still way more to come," smiled Wentz. "During the Team Test we got hit for being too conservative but today we went too much the other way and hit too hard on the accelerator. We got way too wobbly in the trot-work and the walk-work. We finally scored the way we were hoping in other parts of the test but the trot work hurt us. I was happy with the turn on the haunches and my walk work since it was a place we improved upon within our test."
Although Wentz did not stand on the podium for the Individual Test it gave him that much more desire to be there next time. The question will remain as the 2012 London Paralympics comes to an end if we will see the handsome eighteen year-old at the World Equestrian Games in Rio, or if a retirement is in his future.
As the Grade Ib Gold, Silver, and Bronze Medal winners stepped up to the podium for the Individual Test Australian Joann Formosa (AUS), Lee Pearson (GBR), and Pepo Puch (AUT) exchanged a congratulatory embrace.
"I came here to win and I wanted gold," exclaimed Formosa. "This has been my goal my entire life. I love this sport, I love my horses, and when I am aboard my horse there is a feeling of freedom. I couldn't be happier to have won this medal and I couldn't have earned this without my support team, fundraising, family, friends, and fans."
Pearson genuinely noted, "I am really happy with earning Silver, believe me. It has been a tough competition and Joann rode beautifully. I am actually over the moon; It would have been amazing to win a gold but I am happy to place this medal up on the wall with my past medals."
He continued, "Of course I will be back in Rio to redeem myself. I love horses and I love this sport. Although I wouldn't be able to do this sport without the help of everyone on Team Great Britain, our sponsors and staff, our country, and of course the United Kingdom Lottery."
Results Individual Championship Test - Grade Ib
1. Joann Formosa (AUS) and Worldwide PB 75.826%
2. Lee Pearson (GBR) and Gentleman 75.391%
3. Pepo Puch (AUT) and Fine Feeling 75.043%
4. Johnathan Wentz (USA) and Richter 70.348%
5. Katja Karjalainen (FIN) and Rosie 69.739%
Results Individual Championship Test - Grade Ia
1. Sophie Christiansen (GBR) and Janiero 6 82.750%
2. Helen Kearney (IRL) and Mister Cool 76.700%
3. Laurentia Tan (SIN) and Ruben James 2 73.650%
4. Rihards Snikus (LAT) and Chardonnay 70.400%
5. Liselotte Rosenhart (DEN) and Prior Lady's Rawage 70.000%
Great Britain added another Gold Medal to their accolades when Grade Ia Para-Equestrian Sophie Christiansan and Janiero 6 earned an 82.750%. Earning the Silver was Helen Kearney of Ireland and Mister Cool, and winning the Bronze was Laurentia Tan and Ruben James 2 of Singapore. United States Para-Equestrian Donna Ponessa and Western Rose, owned by Wes Dunham earned the sixth position for their Individual Test.
"We gave it our all but it could have been a lot better. There was some improvement from the Team Test and some things we didn't do as well," said Ponessa. "It's a learning process."
In the Grade II competition USA Team Captain and 2008 Paralympian Rebecca Hart was positive as always for the entire team despite her individual placing with Lord Ludger, owned by Jessica Ransehousen. "This was his first international on this scale," noted Hart. "It was not what I hoping for but it's good to get him out here and get the experience. Obviously we were hoping for a little bit more especially for the team but it was ok. There are definitely ups and downs to every event for each one of us. We have what we need we just need to do it."
Dale Dedrick who rode Bonifatius in Grade II for the U.S.A concurred, "We have a great team and I am proud to be a part of it. Our preparation for this event has been superb. From the work my trainer Roz Kinstler of Ann Arbor, Mich. and I have done at home and on the road to the preparation of Meagan Szarek my groom."
Gold Medal winner of Grade II was Natasha Baker (GBR) and horse Cabral. Baker expressed her excitement, "This is the most incredible feeling in the world. Coming to my first Games here in Great Britain and to come home with a Gold Medal is brilliant; I get a postbox and stamp!"
She continued, "Since the age of 10 I said I would compete in the Paralympics and win a Gold Medal. Since my first games I never expected this in a million years but I couldn't have done this without my horse. He is a dream, I am so proud of him, I really am."
Results Individual Championship Test - Grade II
1. Natasha Baker (GBR) and Cabral 76.857%
2. Britta Napel (GER) and Aquilina 3 76.048%
3. Angelika Trabert (GER) and Ariva-Avanti 76.00%
4. Petra van de Sande (NED) and Valencia Z 74.476%
5. Eilish Byrne (IRL) and Youri 73.429%
Results Individual Championship Test - Grade III
1. Hannelore Brenner (GER) and Women of the World 73.467%
2. Deborah Criddle (GBR) and LJT Akilles 71.267%%
3. Annika Dalskov (DEN) and Aros a Fenris 71.233%
4. Susanne Sunesen (DEN) and Thys Que Faire 69.700%
5. Sanne Voets (NED) and Vedet PB 68.767%
Results Individual Championship Test - Grade IV
1. Michele George (BEL) and Rainman 77.065%
2. Sophie Wells (GBR) and Pinocchio 76.323%%
3. Frank Hosmar (NED) and Alphaville 73.097%
4. Ciska Vermeulen (BEL) and Whooney Tunes 71.613%
5. Line Jorgensen (DEN) and Di Caprio 70.258%%
The 2012 London Paralympics continues through September 9 and the equestrian competition concludes on September 4 with the last of the Individual Freestyle competition. Following the Freestyle competition on Tuesday will be indivudal ceremonies for Grade Ia, III, and IV and the Medal Ceremony for the Team Results. The 2012 London Paralympic Equestrian compeition includes seventy-eight horses from 26 nations. Horse and rider combinations are judged on technical requirements in front of international FEI judges President Kjell Myhre (NOR), Lillian Iannone (ARG), Freddy Leyman (BEL), Anne Prain (FRA), Gudrun Hofinga (GER), Sarah Rodger (GBR), Carlos Lopes (POR), and Kathy Amos-Jacob (FRA) as the reserve member.