Britain maintained its record of winning every Paralympic, world and European Team title since the sport became part of the Paralympic Games in 1996 when they clinched London 2012 gold at Greenwich Park today.
All British riders competing today also won individual medals with Sophie Christiansen taking a Championship gold in the grade Ia class, Sophie Wells striking silver in grade IV and Deb Criddle adding another silver in grade III.
The Team gold gives Lee Pearson his 10th Paralympic title but he will have to wait until Tuesday’s medal ceremony to receive the medal. He can now match wheelchair racer Tanni Grey-Thompson and swimmer David Roberts with 11 Games golds if he wins the grade Ib Freestyle tomorrow.
Pearson said: “I think this has been our strongest team, but it has been the toughest gold to gain.”
While the Team gold was a milestone for Pearson, it was Sophie Christiansen who was the day’s star.
Even before she and her horse Janeiro 6, known as Rio, entered the arena for their test, it was unlikely that Britain would be beaten, and Christiansen’s score of 82.75% merely confirmed Britain’s reputation as the powerhouse of Paralympic dressage.
Christiansen rode first but was peerless again two days after scoring 83.765% in her Team test ride.
A beaming Christiansen said later: “It’s a hard task waiting for two hours, but I couldn’t be happier. All I could do was my best. By going first I just had to focus on my own performance and set the bar really high. I couldn’t have asked for anymore.”
Norwegian judge Kjell Myhre explained why Sophie and Rio gained their high marks. “The quality of the walk is exceptional,” he said. “It’s the activity and consistency of the contact.”
Sophie’s long-time trainer, Clive Milkins added: “This gold is in memory of Jane Goldsmith who pioneered para-dressage in Britain. She found Rio for us from the Eilberg family and without her influence, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
With three Paralympics behind her, Criddle relied on all her experience to refocus after making a mistake in the grade III test and achieve 71%. It was enough for silver on her horse LJT Akilles.
The 46-year-old said: “The marks are a little bit lower than I’d hoped. Yes, there was a mistake. I had too much bend and couldn’t contain what I’d created, so we had an abrupt stop.
“He’s a sensitive chappie and there was more atmosphere today, but he grew into it in a good way. We had lots of super movements and, overall, it felt fantastic.
“When you go first, it’s always difficult. You have to go out and push for everything. You have no option and know you have better riders coming behind you. There’s always another day, but not, unfortunately, another London 2012.
“I’ve only had him for just over a year and performing in front of 10,000 people is a lot to ask of a horse. I thought he coped brilliantly well.”
Germany’s Hannelore Brenner retained her Paralympic title on Women Of The World, winning gold with 75.741%. Brenner, who sustained a spinal injury while eventing in 1986, has now won 28 individual Championship medals.
Bronze went to Denmark’s Annika Dalskov and the six-year-old De Niro gelding Aros A Fenris.
After Pearson’s shock defeat yesterday, it was favourite Sophie Wells’ turn to be denied this morning. Despite scoring another international personal best of 76.323% with Pinocchio in the grade IV event she had to settle for silver behind Belgium’s Michelle George.
With two individual golds and three silvers to go with their Team title, GB trainer Michel Assouline had every reason to be pleased.
“This is history for us,” he said. “Very rarely does a country have a rider in each grade and this is the first time a country has ever won a medal in each grade. When you think that the drop scores were above 70%, that is also amazing.”
Team manager David Hunter added: “Our priority was to win team gold and as many individual medals as possible. It’s fantastic.”
Get more Paralympics news from www.paralympics.org.uk/gb.