Broad Hinton legend 'gutted' after being told she will miss Games
ANNE DUNHAM has been denied the opportunity to win a gold medal at five consecutive Paralympic Games.
The phenomenally successful para-dressage rider from Broad Hinton in Wiltshire has been chosen only as first reserve in the Team GB squad for next month’s Games.
So her unprecedented run of team gold medals at Atlanta (1996), Sydney (2000), Athens (2004) and Beijing four years ago, has come to an end.
She also won an individual gold and silver at the latest Games, as well as a bronze in Atlanta.
Dunham, a wheelchair-bound sufferer from multiple sclerosis and therefore in the 1a category of ‘most severely-disabled riders’, was understandably ‘gutted’ when given the news.
The selectors have opted to choose just one athlete in each of the five grades of disability and have preferred Berkshire’s Sophie Christiansen – who won two golds (team and freestyle) in Beijing – rather than Anne in the 1a category, It was Christiansen who beat Dunham in the final trial before the selection process at Hartpury’s Festival of Dressage last week, which may have tipped the scales in her favour.
But Dunham still finds the decision hard to take.
“I have been in the top five with both my horses (Teddy Edwards and LJT Lucas Normark all season,” said Anne. “I could not have done any more.
“Teddy is absolutely good to go and I am gutted not just for myself but also for my support team, especially my sister and my daughter Amber who has worked so hard, as well as my sponsors.
“There is also Pammy Hutton, with whom I train four times a month at the Talland School of Equitation near Cirencester, who has been one of my great supporters.
“I have told Teddy that he is still a star and we will just try and bounce back in the European Championships next year.”
It was Paralympic Equestrian Team Leader, David Hunter who broke the news to Dunham.
“He took me aside individually and did it in a very nice way,” said Anne.
“Previously the selectors have picked up to three riders in my 1a category but that was never an option at these Games because the rules state the team must be reduced from seven to five.
“They have gone with one person in each of the five categories to maximise the chances of getting more gold medals.
“There was a lot of pressure on the selectors and they have come up with a very strong team.”
Anne, who is 63, showed her grit and resilience to come out and partner Lucas Normark the day after she learned of her Olympic snub in a ‘fantastic’ test which was marked at 76% in a National Championship qualifier.
In addition to Christiansen, the 2012 squad also features nine-time Paralympic gold medallist Lee Pearson (Grade Ib), Natasha Baker (Grade II), Deborah Criddle (Grade III) and Sophie Wells (Grade IV).
Britain were the leading para-dressage nation in Beijing, winning five gold medals, and are expected to top the charts again. They have won team gold at every Paralympic Games since the sport was introduced at Atlanta in 1996.
Hunter said: “Great Britain will be sending what I believe to be one of the strongest and best prepared squads to the Paralympic Games.”