Helen Kearney unhappy with opening dressage effort at  Paralympic Games

Wicklow rider Helen Kearney was disappointed with her opening score in the first competition of the Grade 1a dressage yesterday, which took place in searing 30-plus degree heat in the Deodoro Equestrian Arena.

The 27-year- old Dunlavin woman was one of Team Ireland’s surprise stars in London 2012 when she won an unexpected three equestrian medals - silver in the individual championship and bronze in the Freestyle and team competitions - on her grey Mister Cool.

But she is back competing as an individual and riding a relatively new horse - a 12-year- old gelding called Rock and Roll 2 - after losing Mister Cool to injury.

And her challenge is also greater given that her neuromuscular condition (Friedreich’s Ataxia) has progressed quite a bit since.

Kearney still felt herself and her new partner performed better than their opening score of 68% in Rio yesterday.

The top five riders, led by British star Sophie Christiansen with 77.5%, scored over 73% and the top 11 scored 70% or more, so Kearney’s score left her 20th of the 25-rider field.

But she will be back for the Individual Championship test on Thursday, which is a stand-alone competition.

Yesterday’s score, combined with her result on Thursday, will decide if she also makes the top third of the field who will then contest the separate Freestyle Competition so she will need a considerable improvement.

“I was happy with how the test went,” Kearney said. “A few little things could have been better but every dressage rider feels like that.

“I felt it was a good solid performance so I'm a little bit disappointed with the mark and where I’m lying at the moment. I thought it would score better than that but sport is sport, one day you’re up and the next you’re not.

“I was hoping I’d get back in twice, I’m guessing now, being so far down the field, that it might be hard for me to make the music (the Freestyle competition),” she added.

“But I’m back in on Thursday for the Individual Championship.

“Hopefully I can learn from today, make a few adjustments and do a little better.

“The judges mark each movement out of 10 and often write a little comment in beside it which helps to show where you’re falling down so I’ll get a chance to look at that,” she said.

She said her mount has reacted remarkable well to the heat of Rio, having been transported over- land to Belgium and then flown to Brazil.

“I’ve been really impressed with the horse. I arrived on Sunday and he looked like he’d just travelled over from England, it didn’t really seem to phase him at all,” she said.

“The heat was tough here today.

“He probably felt a touch lazier than usual but overall I’m really impressed with how he’s handled it because that heat is really hard for me as well as him.”


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