Not one, but two

2008-09-11 00:00

Philippa Johnson is South Africa’s equestrian star at the 2008 Paralympics in Hong Kong.

Johnson (34) is confined to a wheelchair after a car accident left her suffering from the total loss of use of her right arm and a severely weakened right leg. She rode her magnificent chestnut horse Benedict to victory and a gold medal in the Team Championship at the weekend with a score of 70,286% from Ann Cathrin Lubbe of Norway riding Zanko, who finished on 67,785%.

Johnson then rode to gold again on Monday in the Grade IV Individual Championships with a score of 69,290%, with Lubbe in the silver medal position on a score of 68,512%.

This is a remarkable achievement for Johnson who claimed two silver medals in the Athens Olympics behind Lubbe. This is the first time that competitors have been able to compete at the Paralympics on their own horses. They have, in the past, always competed on the host nations’ pooled horses.

The South African team, with the exception of Johnson, are competing on leased horses from German trainer Phillip Hess.

Johnson is now based in Belgium where she competes in able-bodied competitions with success at Prix St George level. Competitors in the Grade IV championships have to achieve a high level of dressage as the tests are up to nine minutes long and include lateral work such as half-passes, half-pirouettes and collection, as well as medium work.

The other South African equestrian team members are 20-year-old Mark Frenzel, who is the youngest male equestrian at these games (Grade 1A level), Kerry Noble (Grade 2 level) and Marion Milne (Grade 1B level).

KwaZulu-Natal Riding for the Disabled is well represented at national committee level by international dressage judge Liz Day, the South African National Equestrian Federation (SANEF) Manco liaison officer, and Tracey Cumming, who is a member of the South African Riding for the Disabled Association (SARDA) and a physiotherapist.

* * *

The schools’ league is growing at an encouraging rate throughout South Africa and last week the annual national championships were held in Gauteng. Competitors and their equines do not have to be registered with an affiliated body in order to compete. However, if they are registered, points will be awarded for clear rounds and are included on their records at the relevant societies. This league is now starting up in KZN. The main aims and objectives of the Equestrian School League are:

• to promote the recognition of equestrian disciplines as a school sport;

• to ensure the equal standing of equestrian disciplines with other school sports;

• to assist schools in formulating a colours policy for pupils who regularly participate in Equestrian School League events;

• to encourage schools to recognise pupils’ commitment to equestrian disciplines when reviewing commitment to the school for other honours; and

• to work with the National Co-ordinating Committee for Schools’ Sport (NACOC) to expose and involve as many children as possible to the sport.

* * *

The Harkamel fifth leg FEI World Cup qualifier show takes place at the Equestrian Indoor Centre in Parys from today until Sunday and a large contingent of KZN riders has trucked to this event.

Shortlands Equestrian Centre are holding an affiliated jumping show this Sunday — phone Shaun Oliff at 082 4524432. Durban Shongweni Club are hosting the KZN Dressage Championships this weekend — phone Sue Horne at 082 448 8257.

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