Hart Just Misses Medal at 2008 Paralympic Games

U.S. rider Rebecca Hart put in a stellar performance and narrowly missed earning a medal in the individual freestyle at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Hong Kong.
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U.S. rider Rebecca Hart put in a stellar performance and narrowly missed earning a medal in the individual freestyle at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Hong Kong.

September 10, 2008 -- The venue was lively today as the freestyles got underway in the main arena at Sha Tin. All kinds of music were showcased in two sessions. Two US riders went to task in the morning sessions on the penultimate day of competition at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Equestrian. In the Grade II Individual Freestyle, Rebecca Hart (Erie, PA) finally had the performance she knew she was capable with Norteassa at these Games. The electric arena had been unsettling to the 15-year-old Hanoverian gelding but today they really shone--scoring 68.056 percent for their effort.

"I'm very, very happy with my test," said Hart who was born with Familial Spastic Paraplegia. "I had a definite goal in mind and I met that goal. I'm pleased with my horse, it was a great ride. I worked on the expression, got him to settle and got the cadence and elegance back."

Hart's test featured canter work (which isn't required in the Grade II Freestyle Test) and lovely shoulder in and half-pass. She looks forward to continuing her progress with the horse, including eventually showing him Prix St. Georges at able body shows.

"My ultimate goal is the 2010 World Equestrian Games," said Hart. "This has been a great experience and the facility has been fantastic."

Hart led after the first group of riders, and sat in medal position until the final rider went in the second session this evening. Hart had to settle for fourth. Eventual winner Jennifer McKenzie from Canada rode Valentine II to the gold. Great Britain continued their medal haul when Felicity Coulthard won silver on Roffelaar, Britta Naepel and Cherubin 15 from Germany rounded out the medals.

Robin Brueckmann was the first U.S. representative in the ring today in the Grade IV Individual Freestyle. She rode a nice test on Radetsky to music by the composer of the same name. The inexperienced horse kept his composure in the ring and the pair ended on a score of 61.135%. This left them in 11th place in the Grade IV Individual Freestyle Test.

"My horse was very good in the freestyle," said Brueckmann of the 7-year-old Trakehner gelding. "He's learned a lot for the future, for the World Equestrian Games. He's a young horse and he needs to be more mature in the upper level movements. The competition level is very high, and I'm very proud to be here."

The Summerfield, N.C. rider was representing the US in her second Paralympic Games. Brueckmann has reflex sympathy dystrophy in her right leg from a fall on the ice, she has paralysis in that leg as a result and she rides without stirrups. She thinks that there is a huge future for her horse.

"This has been much more exciting," said Brueckmann of comparing the two experiences. "I'm looking forward to 2010 and he'll be ready for London in 2012."

The Grade IV Individual Freestyle was won by South Africa's Philippa Johnson on Benedict, Ann Cathrin Lubbe from Norway on Zanko won silver and Australia's Georgia Bruce was the bronze medalist on V Salute.

Tomorrow marks the final day of competition as Keith Newerla, Barbara Grassmyer and Lynn Seidemann will perform their Individual Freestyle Test in the first session.

The schedule and results are available on www.equestrian2008.org.