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PARALYMPICS: Dunham's 'surprise' over Games exclusion
ANNE Dunham admits her first-ever failure to make a Paralympic dressage team came as "a surprise'', but has backed the Great Britain team to maintain their unbeaten Games record at London 2012.
The five-time Paralympic gold medallist was yesterday named as first reserve for British para-dressage team for next month's Games.
Broad Hinton rider Dunham, who helped Great Britain to team gold at Atlanta (1996), Sydney (2000), Athens (2004) and Beijing four years ago, will be on standby for the host nation with long-time ride Teddy Edwards.
The 63-year-old, who also won individual gold and silver in 2008, as well as bronze in Atlanta, competes in the 1a category for the most severely-disabled riders.
But with a rule change dropping the number of places in a nation's team from seven to five, the Wiltshire rider, who was made an MBE in 2009, found herself out of the main line-up.
She told gazetteandherald.co.uk: "It was a surprise because I’ve had a very good season on both horses (Teddy Edwards and LJT Lucas Normark ), but it’s been a close-run thing all year.
"They’ve picked a team to try and win a gold medal in every class and keep up our unbeaten record.
"There’s a bit of personal disappointment for me but I wish the team well and I’m sure we will do well in London.''
She added: “I’m disappointed for myself and also for all the people who have supported me, such as my family, my sponsors and owner. It’s all a bit gutting really.
“I knew there was a chance but it’s still a shock when it happens.
“I haven’t quite got over it and it will take me a while to get over it.
“But there’s no stopping or slowing down, I still have to be in training because I’m aiming for the Europeans next year, and as a reserve for the Olympics should the unthinkable happen to a horse or a rider, then I have to be ready.
"I’ve got to keep on training as if I am going to London.
"The reserve period is right through until August 20 and if anyone is unlucky, I’ll be there but I hope that isn’t the case for anyone.
"My whole team has been working really hard for a long time to try and get me there and when we can, we’ll have a bit of a rest.''
Berkshire's Sophie Christiansen, who last week pushed Dunham into second and third in an International Para-Dressage competition at Hartpury's Festival of Dressage in Gloucestershire, has been selected for the 1a category with horse Janeiro 6.
She won an individual bronze in Athens in 2004 and two golds (team and freestyle) in Beijing.
The 2012 squad also features nine-time Paralympic gold medallist Lee Pearson (Grade Ib), who is set to make his fourth Paralympics appearance alongside Deborah Criddle (Grade III.
They are joined by Sophie Wells (Grade IV) and Natasha Baker (Grade II) – both of whom achieve Paralympic selection for the first time.
Britain’s riders topped the medal table in Beijing, winning five gold medals including team gold for the fourth consecutive Games.
The four team riders will be hoping to capitalise on their previous successes at Paralympic Games and record their fifth team title, having won team gold at every Paralympic Games since the sport was introduced at Atlanta in 1996.
Paralympic Equestrian Team Leader, David Hunter said: “Great Britain will be sending what I believe to be one of the strongest and best prepared squads to the Paralympic Games.
“The five riders and their support teams have worked extremely hard all the way through the selection process and my heartfelt congratulations goes to them; as well as my condolences to those who did not make the squad.
“It’s been a tough few months for all riders, particularly as the new FEI rules allow for a maximum of five competitors to compete in London – previous Games had allowed seven riders.
"The selection process has been robust and results driven and I’m very grateful to the selectors and all of the World Class support staff for the time and effort put in to getting the team to this stage.”
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