Diana Man: All eyes on Lee Pearson as he bids to become our Michael Phelps
I know just how difficult it is to secure a place at the Paralympics. It's certainly not easy
Saturday 01 September 2012
Today all eyes will be on Lee Pearson, Team GB's para-dressage superstar, who is on the verge of becoming Britain's greatest ever Paralympian. He needs just three medals to surpass Tanni-Grey Thompson's incredible record of 11 golds – and begins his charge in the individual competition this afternoon. Despite torrential downpours on Thursday, Lee had a great first ride. He only just finished at the top of the table, but he will definitely go on to produce better results over the next few days.
A lot of people have compared him to Michael Phelps, but you could argue that Lee's achievement is even greater. Alongside all of Phelps' golds he has also lost a few races, whereas Lee has won gold in every event he possibly could, and he goes into this competition unbeaten in the Paralympic Games. It would certainly be a surprise if he didn't repeat the feat in London – and install himself at the top of the illustrious list of GB's Paralympians.
I would have loved to have competed at London 2012, but I had to face the fact that this time around I just wasn't good enough. I'd always been a good eventer, but after contracting meningococcal septicaemia five years ago I lost both my legs and all the fingers on my right hand, and had to reconsider my sporting future. I thought that riding again wouldn't be worth it, that it would be so frustrating not to be as good as I once was. But I switched my focus to dressage, and while it hasn't been easy, I've been able to compete in nationals.
Some people might think that it's easy to get a place at the Paralympics, but I know from first-hand experience just how difficult it can be. I didn't make the cut but I'm happy to be watching the others perform at these Games because I know they're a lot better than me. I'll be working hard to earn a place at Rio 2016.
While Lee has garnered all the column inches, our other dressage stars are just as good. Sophie Wells is a European and World Champion, and Debbie Criddle is an exceptionally talented rider. We have the best para-dressage team in the world, and we could even see a clean sweep of the gold medals.
People can be sceptical about dressage, dismissing it as mere "horse dancing" but British dressage success stories at the Olympics showed people what horses can be trained to do. At the para dressage, you'll admire the grace and beauty of the horses' movements. You'll also see the riders physically exhausted as they dismount, and you'll be able to tell that they've worked really hard.
Diana Man, 30, is a Paralympics presenter for Channel 4 and competes in para dressage
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