With main rival Debbie Criddle away at the Paralympics in Athens, Kathryn Wheelock had her best ever chance of winning the Grade III Disabled Dressage Rider National Championship and she rode a very consistent and forward thinking test to assure her of the winning rosette. Having qualified for the final on 5 previous occasions, Kathryn 's experience paid off and she was able to focus on her goal despite the added pressure of knowing this was a golden opportunity to become the champion.
Riding her 15 year old pony, Jon Boy George, Kathryn achieved a score of 66.67% to beat 3 other riders and become the Grade III KBIS Disabled Dressage Rider National Champion 2004 on 17th September at Stoneleigh, Warwickshire .
This achievement is all the more satisfying for Kathryn, as the 3 riders below her are all members of the Paralympic World Class Start and Potential Squad. Kathryn seems to have been overlooked by the selectors on numerous occasions despite regularly beating squad members in both National and International competitions. Rival Toby Pawson, who could only achieve 59.16% for 4th place on this occasion, summed this up when he graciously congratulated Kathryn with the comment, "Another convincing win, well done!"
Unlike squad members who are provided with lottery funding towards travel, training and entry fees, as well as clothing, rugs and even a sports psychologist, Kathryn and her family have to provide their own funding and support team.
Thanks to a number of generous sponsors, Kathryn has been able to represent Great Britain at the Spanish and Canadian Paralympic Championships in 2004. "Even attending the British National Championships at Stoneleigh cost us several hundred pounds, whereas Squad members get everything paid for," said Kathryn's Mum, Jan Wheelock. "We are very grateful to all our sponsors who have made it possible for Kathryn to continue competing and winning at such a high level". Many thanks also go to KBIS for sponsoring this national championship.
Kathryn has cerebral palsy and not only has this left her with physical disabilities including co-ordination problems and a considerable weakness down the right side of her body, but she also has a learning disability. This makes it all the more remarkable that she is now National Champion, having beaten riders that may only have had a physical disability to overcome.
Visit Kathryn’s website at www.disabled-dressage.co.uk for further details and photos of Kathryn, and on dressage competitions for riders with disabilities.
Visit www.bdchampionships.co.uk for full results from the British Dressage National Championships and audio interviews with winning riders, including Kathryn.