Cape Town - South African para-equestrian rider, Philippa
Johnson-Dwyer, 41, has qualified for an individual spot at the Rio
Paralympics in September 2016, competing as part of the DSA (Dressage South
Africa) High Performance Para Dressage squad at the CPEDI3 competition, in
Mannheim, Germany last week. We expect her to proudly carry the South African
flag as she represents her home country at the games.
Paralympic gold medallist Johnson-Dwyer is classified as a Grade III competitor for Dressage South Africa. She
competed alongside two other South Africans, Shani de Beer, 23, classified
Grade II and Tamsin Mbatsha-Bouwer, 17, classified Grade Ib. All three
competitors achieved their minimum eligibility scores for the Rio Paralympic
Games, but only Johnson-Dwyer will be able to compete at the Paralympics now.
Comments Johnson-Dwyer: “This year has been
incredible so far - I've had Lord Louis for four years and he is by far the
most talented horse I’ve worked with, but undoubtedly the most difficult. He
suddenly seems to be coming into his own now though, so all the blood, sweat
and tears have been worth it!” Johnson-Dwyer will be riding Lord Louis at the Rio
The para-equestrian contenders travelled to
Europe earlier this year without the backing of sponsorship, participating in
three qualifying heats in the cities of Deauville in France, Waregem in Belgium
and Mannheim in Germany respectively. They were fortunate to receive
sponsorship from KwaZulu-Natal based company, Gold Circle Horseracing and
Betting whilst competing in the trials.
Comments de Beer: “Each competition is
different with a new challenge that has to be faced. Being able to adjust to
these challenges is important. It’s been an incredible experience, I’ve grown
in leaps and bounds and the lessons I have learned have been invaluable.”
Mbatsha-Bouwer adds: “I’m proud of myself - the
riding scene is quite advanced overseas and considering that this was my first
international competition, I did very well.”
Johnson-Dwyer was a double gold medallist at
the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games and took silver in the Athens Paralympics
2004. She won the first ever Paralympic equestrian gold medal for South Africa
at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics. She will once again be in the international
spotlight in September when she goes all out for gold.
Johnson-Dwyer’s love for horse riding brought her to Belgium in 2003. She was
disabled after a car accident in 1998, losing all strength in her right arm and
60 percent in her right leg. Within a year she’d learned to ride again, this
time though, with a severe handicap. Shortly afterwards, and just a day before
an important competition, she tried to mount her horse without help and lost
her balance and fell, breaking her back. In spite of this classification,
Spinal Cord Injuries Grade III, she has become a successful international
para-equestrian rider. She returns home to South Africa each year for about six
weeks to give ten day clinics at her uncle’s stables at Ascot. She is proud of
her home country and aims to represent South Africa in dressage globally,
returning home finally to South Africa to teach others dressage skills.
Tamsin Mbatsha-Bouwer, classified with Cerebral
Palsy Grade Ib, hails from Midrand in Gauteng. She rides for the Dressage South
Africa and is currently writing matric this year. Having begun horse riding at
the age of four helped her to walk at age seven, much to the surprise of
doctors. A show jumper at first, she moved to dressage only recently. She won
the 2014 and 2015 FEI Grade Ib individual championships and was placed first in
the 2015 SA Dressage team and individual championships. Now future plans include
participation in the World Equestrian Games in 2018 in Montreal, Canada with
qualifiers starting in 2017.
Shani de Beer
Shani de Beer is from Hout Bay in the Western
Cape and holds a BMedSci (Hons). She is a riding instructor and horse trainer.
A former Wynberg Girls High School learner, she matriculated with five
distinctions. Doctors said she would never walk, let alone ride a horse. Her
disability, Cerebral Palsy Grade II, means that she is limited in walking long
distances with gross motor skills that are challenged. She made her
international debut in 2012, representing SA in Para-Dressage at the Hong Kong
CPEDI3, after representing Western Province locally in 2011. She qualified for
the World Equestrian Games in 2014.