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Paralympic Inspiration

By Leslie Potter

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

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The equestrian events at the 2012 London Paralympics have just ended. Did you manage to watch any of the competition? If you did, you’re ahead of me because I couldn’t figure out how or where to do it.

While NBCOlympics.com did offer streaming of every Olympic event (not available to everyone) they didn’t stream any of the Paralympics. The U.S. Paralympic YouTube channel made quite a bit of footage available. None of it was equestrian. Even Paralympics.org, which ran several channels of live streaming, ignored the goings-on in Greenwich Park.

Whatever. This is 2012. We don’t need the official channels.

In Paralympic equestrian, riders are divided into grades based on the severity and type of their disability. Grade IV riders have the most minor disabilities while Ia is for riders with the most extensive physical limitations, and those riders perform walk-only tests. When I read that British Grade Ia rider Sophie Christiansen had earned three gold medals and scored in the 80s for all of her tests at this year’s Paralympics, I have to admit, I was curious. What happens in a walk-only test that earns such a big score? And then I watched her test.

Oh. I get it now. I admit, I sometimes scratch my head at dressage scoring, but the quality of Janeiro 6’s movement is pretty undeniable. And I don’t mean to shortchange Ms. Christiansen here. She’s not just a passenger on that lovely horse. In fact, this is her third Paralympics, and each of the three outings has been with a different horse, and successful. In 2008, she won two golds and a silver with Lambrusco III. In 2004, when she was just 16, she took home a bronze from the Athens Paralympics aboard Hotstuff. She’s also got several European and World championship medals to her name, including two golds and a silver from the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games here in Kentucky with a horse named Rivaldo of Berkeley. Somewhere in between competing and training, she found time to earn her Master’s Degree in math (or, as the Brits say, maths.) All this by age 24 and while living with severe Cerebral Palsy.

Jeez. What have I done lately?

It’s cliché to talk about how inspiring the Paralympics are, but I can’t really think of a better word for someone like Christiansen. And she was only one of dozens of Paralympic equestrians that we didn’t get to watch because those in charge of video streaming didn’t see fit to include them.

Yes, I’m bitter. Yes, I’ll get over it.

Thank goodness for contraband mobile phone videos.

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Reader Comments

Kaylee    ATownNearHolland, MI

9/7/2012 4:26:25 PM

It seems to me that she was yanking on the reins and jabbing the horse with her spurs a lot. I understand the jerking and balance issue is due to her condition, but I still feel a bit sorry for the horse. Does anyone know why she didn't have stirrups? I would have thought that would help her with keeping her legs a bit more steady.

kygal    rural, KY

9/6/2012 11:51:54 AM

I like this article. Big networks like to show off the "perfect" athlete not those that really have to work and commit to competing.Way to go to all those that performed in the paralympics.

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