Sir Lee Pearson’s 14th Paralympic gold medal was the one he least expected.
Breezer, his inexperienced, homebred ten-year-old, delivered team and individual gold medals in Tokyo but third in freestyle looked a long trot. Indeed, Pearson believed they might not even register a score.
“I can’t help being disabled and he can’t help being sensitive,” said the 47-year-old. “Deep down, I believed we’d leave the arena retired. I truly believed that. I told the team, if we do retire tonight, I still love him and he still is amazing and he’s given me so much. That’s the horseman in me, it overrides the desire to win a gold medal.”
In the end, Breezer boogied to the tune of Kung Fu Panda and all the way to victory with a score of 82.447 per cent.
It was an eight per cent lifetime best for the horse, who has flourished at his very first major championships and the biggest of them all.
“I didn’t care if I medalled, that horse gave me his heart in there,” said Pearson. “He was nervous, we had a tiny little spook before I entered and I said: ‘daddy’s here, come on, we can do this.’ He was like a baby lion in there.”
For a few hours at least, only one gold medal separated Pearson from Dame Sarah Storey. He is Britain’s third most successful Paralympian but the pair are assured of equal standing as British sporting icons.
The Paralympic veteran has no plans to step away from the saddle but catching Storey’s ever-increasing tally isn’t in his thoughts.
“I don’t do this to out-medal Sarah Storey, she’s a phenomenal athlete and I’m proud of her,” he said.
The pair are bound by an almost childlike love of their sport, which is the centrifugal force behind their achievements rather than chasing records.
“The key is to keep loving horses,” said Pearson. “That drags you through the snowy days, the bad days when the horse doesn’t communicate with you. That’s why I’m here.
“I love horses and I love training horses. If you married me and made me a multimillionaire, I’d still be training horses. It’s them that I love and my job is to compete.”
Unlike Storey, there are riders in his sport capable of beating Pearson. Long-time rival Pepo Puch was hot on his heels with a score of 81.007 per cent.
Pearson has walked the sport as a king since Sydney 2000 and you only needed to look two places down on the podium for evidence of the legacy he has built.
Georgia Wilson won bronze in the same event, Britain’s eighth in the sport at the Games to leave them clear top of the medal table.
“It’s so special to compete with Lee and to be on the podium with him,” said Wilson. “I used to be on my little pony and Lee was on Blue Circle Boy. It’s crazy to be up there with him now.”
Sainsbury’s is a proud supporter of ParalympicsGB and a champion of inclusive sport for all. Sainsbury’s commitment to helping customers to eat better has been at the heart of what we do since 1869. For more information on Sainsbury’s visit www.sainsburys.co.uk/ and https://paralympics.org.uk/
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