WATCH: Johnson-Dwyer finished with a flourish in the Para Dressage freestyle event in Doha
South African equestrian Paralympic hopefull, Philippa Johnson-Dwyer, finished with a flourish with third place in the Para Dressage freestyle event at the Middle East’s most prestigious equestrian show in Doha.
With a classy, rhythmic and polished ride on her chestnut gelding Lord Louis, Johnson-Dwyer claimed her third podium finish in as many days against some of the world’s top riders at the Commercial Bank CHI AL SHAQAB event at Qatar’s swanky Longines Arena.
The 45-year-old Johnson-Dwyer recorded a score of 73.87% in the freestyle competition, one of the best of her successful over two-decade career, to take the lead in the competition.
Her score was, however, bettered by Dutch rider Lotte Krijnsen’s 75,45%, who in turn was beaten in the last ride of the competition by Brazilian rising star Rodolpho Riskalla’s 76.87%.
Riskalla made a clean sweep of the team, individual and freestyle categories at Al Shaqab this week, with Johnson-Dwyer claiming bronze in the team test, silver in the individual test and bronze again in the musical freestyle event.
For Johnson-Dwyer, competing at Al Shaqab was perfect preparation for another tilt at an opportunity for a Paralympic medal at Tokyo 2020.
“Competing at Al Shaqab this week was unbelievable. Every year they manage to hold such an incredible show with a phenomenal collection of international riders. One dreams of competing at places like this, the organizing committee make it so easy for all the competitors. Nothing is too much trouble, it’s always amazing,” Johnson-Dwyer said after her final ride at CHI Al Shaqab.
The Qatar Foundation’s breathtaking Al Shaqab facility is one of the world’s best, distinctly designed in the shape of a horseshoe and covering all of 980 000 square metres, with its indoor and outdoor arenas capable of holding over 5 000 spectators.
The Lamborghinis, Aston Martins and Bentleys casually parked at the venue for one of the sport’s richest events gave a sense that this is no ordinary day at the races.
Good crowds were on hand in Doha this week and they were entertained royally by some of the world’s premier showjumpers and dressage riders.
Johnson-Dwyer’s pedigree, as a Beijing 2008 Paralympic gold medalist and 2004 Athens silver medalist, ensured her place at the sport’s top table of invited global riders in Qatar.
While it may be 12 years since she made it onto the Paralympic podium, Johnson-Dwyer’s competitive juices still flow freely and she was encouraged by her showing in Doha as she prepares for the Tokyo Paralympics this year.
“I am not like a fast bowler whose career ends at 32. The horses keep you motivated. I am a little disappointed with a third-place finish at Al Shaqab - you always want to compete with the big guns - but I am still super proud of my performance. I have never seen Lord Louis perform like that before, he was brilliant. I have seen that our work over the last few months is starting to pay off. We are not quite there yet, but we are definitely going in the right direction,” says Johnson-Dwyer.
The Para Dressage competition at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics will be held at the Tokyo Equestrian Park from Thursday 27 to Monday 31 August.