15 August 2019
Fresh faces energise Wells for European Championships
When it comes to team para-dressage, winning is in Britain’s DNA and Sophie Wells is carrying the flame at the upcoming European Championships.
Such totems as Lee Pearson, Sophie Christiansen and Natasha Baker have been at the heart of a dynasty yielding seven straight European titles and back-to-back Paralympic gold medals.
Yet at next week’s continental gathering in Rotterdam, Netherlands, there is a fresh-faced feel to the British team. Three of the four riders slated to compete will be making their championship debuts.
Wells says blooding talent is part of the team’s Paralympic plan and with silver at the World Equestrian Games sealing a spot in Tokyo, opportunity knocks for the new additions.
Wells claimed one of Britain's six individual golds in Rio
“I’m massively proud of our record in team events,” said the 29-year-old.
“Every time you put a team forward you feel pressure to emulate that and to continue the success.
“It’s a totally new combination this year and I think it’s great to give people opportunities and to give them the Championship experience.
“We’re in a good spot. With qualification in the bag, that takes a bit of pressure off this year.
“Since Rio, we’ve had different people on the team each year and that shows strength in depth. I’m sure the team for Tokyo will be a mix of the faces who have been to major events recently.”
In the squad are Mari Durward-Akhurst, on Sky O’Hara, Nicky Greenhill with Betty Boo and Georgia Wilson with Midnight, all set to make their bows under the wing of Wells and C Fatal Attraction.
It's a good place to take that step to the next level.”
Welsh youngster Wilson is well-known to the double Paralympic medallist – she is her pupil.
Wells talked up the 23-year-old, who on black mare Midnight has scored impressive results at CPEDI events in Bishop Burton and Hartpury.
“Georgia’s great, she’s really good to work with,” she said.
“She’s always got a smile on her face and has got fantastic feel as a rider. That makes her really easy to teach.
“She’s not come from nowhere, she’s been working away for years, but she got her place on the world-class programme back last year and is coming into her own.
“Hopefully she’ll put in some of her best performances, embrace the whole experience and just enjoy it.”
Wells believes C Fatal Attraction, with whom she won two golds and a silver at the 2017 European Championships, is coming into his prime at the age of 12, with the pair competing for six years.
Left to right: Sophie Christiansen, Natasha Baker, Anne Dunham, Wells
If any of the new faces doubt the potential of a European Championships to be the catalyst for a glittering career, they need only use Wells as a guide.
Three gold medals at the 2009 event helped her bounce back from the distress of former companion Touchdown M, who was called up and lame, later diagnosed with a tumour in his foot.
“That event was massive,” she said.
“It was my first major medal and I went in with no expectations at all, tried to remain focused on the process, trying to nail that rather than looking at the results.
“It was an amazing experience for me to win individual and team medals. It’s played a massive part in the rest of my career and it’s a good place to take that step to the next level.”
Joint the ParalympicsGB movement
The ParalympicsGB movement
23 August 2019
British dressage team win silver in Rotterdam
22 August 2019
Wells eyes team gold after European silver
22 September 2018
Wells doubles up in Tryon with second World Equestrian Games para-dressage gold
21 September 2018
GB para-dressage squad secure Paralympic spot with World Equestrian Games team silver
18 September 2018
Wells stunned after becoming para-dressage World Champion
5 September 2018