Dressage hopefuls find a sponsor
Three of South Africa’s top female Paralympian equestrian contenders have been given the opportunity to perhaps take part in the Rio Paralympics this year.
Shani de Beer, Tamsin Mbatsha-Bouwer and Philippa Johnson-Dwyer have been competing in Europe without sponsorship confirmation while hoping to qualify for placement at the Paralympics.
Their luck has just changed, with the KwaZulu-Natal-based Gold Circle Horse Racing and Betting announcing they will sponsor the SA Ladies equestrian Paralympic dressage team.
Under the sponsorship of Gold Circle, the squad is competing in three international events in Europe, the first of which was completed in Deauville, France.
According to Ingeborg Sanne, who runs the international portfolio for Dressage SA, Johnson-Dwyer did extremely well – at medal level – scoring 75.6% for freestyle, 71.27% in individual and 71.29% in team categories. De Beer scored 66.25% in freestyle, 64.94% in individual and 63.97% in team, while Mbatsha-Bouwer received 64.28% for individual and 55.52% for team, in which she competed for the first time. She did not qualify for the freestyle category. The second heats finished in Belgium last weekend and the third will take place in Mannheim in Germany in May. The final results of all three heats will determine eligibility for entry into the Paralympic Games. The heats vary according to the grade of the rider’s physical impairment, and there are five grades, each with its own list of physical disabilities.
The South African Paralympic equestrian squad competitors all have varying degrees of disability: De Beer (23) has cerebral palsy grade II, Mbatsha-Bouwer (17) cerebral palsy grade IB and Johnson- Dwyer (41) spinal cord injuries grade III.
“It was touch and go until the very last minute, knowing if we would get sponsorship or not, so of course we are now thrilled to find out that we will be able to make our dreams a reality. We haven’t been sponsored before, so this is very big – it highlights the development of the sport in South Africa.
“We are grateful to our sponsors for their wonderful generosity,” said De Beer.
Press correspondent – City