Equestrianism: Charlotte Dujardin leads tributes to Team GB's double gold winner Natasha Baker

 

Double Olympic champion Charlotte Dujardin has led the tributes to Natasha Baker after she won a second Paralympic Games gold medal at Greenwich Park.

Baker followed up her individual championship gold two days ago by landing the Grade II freestyle crown with a Paralympic record score of 82.800%.

It was the British para-equestrian team's seventh medal of the Games, which leaves them needing three more from four remaining events to equal their record haul at Beijing in 2008.

Dujardin, who is poised to become the new world dressage number one, claimed Olympic freestyle and team gold in the same Greenwich arena less than a month ago, and she has lavished praise on 22-year-old Baker's achievement.

"What an amazing result! I hope she enjoys every minute of it," Dujardin said.

"She is such a fantastic rider, and I admire her for what she can do. She certainly doesn't let her disability stand in her way.

"It is brilliant. My tummy felt like it did when I won. I am so excited for her."

Baker and Cabral faced tough competition in the 20-rider class, including former Paralympic gold medal winner Lauren Barwick and the twin German threat posed by Britta Napel (Aquilina 3) and Angelika Trabert (Ariva-Avanti).

But whereas the individual championship medallists - today's same trio in the same order - had been separated by less than one per cent, Baker put daylight between her rivals this time.

Napel finished second on 77.400% and Trabert third on 76.150%, while Eilish Byrne took a superb fourth spot aboard Youri a day after Ireland won team bronze and Grade Ia individual silver.

And Baker, who has already decided that her gold post box as a Paralympic champion will be situated on the High Street in her home town of Uxbridge, hailed Dujardin's influence.

"Charlotte is fantastic," she told Press Association Sport. "We are really good friends.

"She competed in her first Europeans last year, as I did, and we both won gold, and now we've done it in out first Games this year.

"She is such a lovely bubbly girl, and we get on really well. It was great to hear about her experience in the Olympic Games."

Reflecting on a golden double that she achieved in the space of just 48 hours, Baker added: "It feels amazing.

"I never imagined that at my first Games in London I would go home with two gold medals. It's incredible. I don't know what to say to be honest, and that doesn't happen a lot!

"Cabral is just a star. I couldn't have asked for any more from him. Today's test was the best of all three we have done here.

"I got 81% at Hartpury International in Gloucestershire earlier this year, and today felt as good as that, if not a bit better. I knew it was good, but I never imagined it would be a Paralympic record.

"I think I have developed as a rider and as a person during the Games, and I've learnt a lot more about my horse. I never imagined he would come here and be so settled. It has been brilliant.

"Watching Lee Pearson at the Sydney Games 12 years ago was a massive inspiration for me, seeing the relationship he had with his horse. I was only 10-years-old then, but I was so inspired by him."

Baker dedicated her victory to Ken Barnsley, the arranger of her Greenwich freestyle music who died last year, but she also revealed the routine had not gone entirely to plan.

"I was so far behind my music at one point that I had to completely improvise with my whole trot," she said.

"The canter was spot-on until I did my change in the middle, but I think it actually looked quite artistically good! There was no need to panic. If I panic, Cabral panics."

One thing that did not change, though, was Baker's recently acquired Paralympics superstition - a McDonalds takeaway the night before she competes.

"I have loads of superstitions," she added.

"I had a McDonalds on opening ceremony night, which was a bit cheeky, and it was before my first day of competing.

"It went so well on the first day that I have had one each other night before I competed, and it was the same meal each time - chicken mayo."

Napel and Trabert could only look on as Baker took charge, but Napel will head home with two silver medals and lasting memories of London.

"This has been the best Games I've ever attended, and I've been in this sport for the past 14 years, competing since 2003," she said.

And for Byrne, it was an emotional day, as her horse Youri retires after London, but they bowed out with a personal best 75.250%.

"It was really emotional, but a great way to finish," she said.

"I will search for another horse, but I do not have another one in mind. If you know of any can you let me know?"

PA

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