Equestrian competitor Sophie Wells performed the ride of her life in the grade IV Freestyle test this morning (Tuesday) but was beaten for gold by a brilliant Belgian for the second time in two days at Greenwich Park.
Wells won ParalympicsGB’s first medal of day six with a routine on Pinocchio which scored 81.150%, less than one per cent short of Michele George on Rainman who had pipped the Briton to gold in the Championship test on Sunday.
Wells followed George into the arena going 12th of the 14 riders, and knew exactly what she had to do to claim the title.
George had made “one little blip” in her programme, but Wells also made a mistake when Pinocchio added extra tempi changes, multiple stride changes in a row.
“My coach and I had decided to throw in three tempi changes down the centre line and I think he threw in a few more,” said Wells. “As a result my halt at the end was too rushed, and that lost it for me.
“We had to go for it. I took the risk, but it didn’t come off. I have no regrets.”
But the 22 year old from Lincoln, who lives in Newark, had nothing but praise for the horse she bought after losing her previous ride, Touchdown, with a foot tumour four years ago.
“He’s so kind and gentle even though he’s so big, nearly 18 hands high,” she said. “I’m only 5ft 2in, so that doesn’t help. He hears his music and loves it. The judges love it, we love it, so we keep it in.
“I lost my horse Touchdown after Beijing. I’d heard ‘Noki’ was up for sale and rather cheekily asked if I could loan him. He’d just failed the vet because they said he had a heart murmur. I asked if he was sound – if he was fit and healthy – and I was given him on loan.”
Wells, who won three golds at the last two European championships, will leave London with two individual Paralympic silvers and a gold from the Team event.
“Life will never be the same after this,” she said. “We’ll never be able to top the experience.
“I get hundreds of messages from people via the internet telling me I’m their idol, and it’s really hard to get my head around that. I just feel like a girl who loves riding ponies. It’s a very humbling experience.
“I do this work because I fundamentally love horses. I don’t do it for the medals or anything like that.”
Wells’ medal is Britain’s ninth from Equestrian events at London 2012 with Deb Criddle and Sophie Christiansen looking to add more from the grade III and Ia Freestyle tests this afternoon.
For more news and pictures from London 2012 go to the ParalympicsGB website: www.paralympics.org.uk/gb