Double gold for Baker

Natasha Baker burst into tears after winning her second Equestrian gold medal of the Games at Greenwich Park on Monday morning.

The 22 year old from west London buried her face in her white riding gloves before punching the air after scoring 82.800% to win the grade II Freestyle test by a massive margin of more than 5% from Britta Napel of Germany.

Baker, who won the grade II Championship gold on Saturday on her horse Cabral, broke the the Paralympic record by almost 4% despite being forced to improvise during her routine when she forgot some steps.

The west London rider was inspired to take up Paralympic dressage as a 10 year old when she watched team-mate Lee Pearson win the first three golds of his illustrious career at the Sydney Games. Baker’s dozen-year odyssey ended in emotional scenes as she celebrated becoming a double Paralympic champion in her own right.

“It’s absolutely fabulous,” she said. “I’m so amazed. It’s my personal best, and if it’s a record, that’s a bonus. I knew it was going to be good but I never imagined it was going to be a Paralympic record.

“I never ever imagined that in my first Games in London I would come home with two gold medals. I always said when I was 10 years old I wanted to go to a Paralympic Games and come home with a gold, but I never thought it would be my first Games, at a home Games, so it’s incredible.

“Watching Lee at the Sydney Games was a massive inspiration for me. Seeing the relationship that he had with his horse and then going out and getting the gold was great. That’s when I announced that I was going to come and win a gold medal.”

Baker described her Freestyle routine, which is performed to music, as “quite simple”, although she admitted she had to make unplanned adjustments during the performance.

“At certain points I had to improvise because I forgot some steps,” she said. “Everything was good until I got to the point where I am supposed to canter, and I forgot what to do next, so I did a loop into a trot. Thank goodness the judges didn’t appear to notice.”

She praised Cabral for his response, calling him “a star”.

“I couldn’t have asked any more from him,” she said. “He was just listening to me the whole time. I actually think that was the best out of all three of the tests we have done here, and I think the results prove that as well.”

Baker dedicated her performance to Ken Barnsely, who composed the music for her three years ago but died in April last year. And she revealed her new secret weapon – a “cheeky McDonalds” the day before she competes.

“The Opening Ceremony was the night before I was competing and we were a bit cheeky and we had a McDonalds,” she said. “So every day since I’ve had a McDonalds the day before I’ve competed and it’s worked.

“I’m going for exactly the same thing every time now – I’m really superstitious. I had a chicken legend with mayo. I had a spot and I was like, ‘No!’ I never get spots, you can tell I’ve eaten a McDonalds.

“It was so worth it for the gold medal, though.”

Pearson is going for the 11th gold medal of his Paralympic career in the grade Ib Freestyle test this afternoon.

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