With the Paralympic Games quickly approaching, Report On Rio will preview every event that has a Canadian team competing in Brazil — featuring past results, schedules, rosters, and expectations
The Canadian para-equestrian team enters the 2016 Rio Games looking to get back on the podium for the first time since 2008.
Canada does have a history of success in these events, including current team member Lauren Barwick who stood atop the Mixed Dressage – Freestyle Grade II podium in Beijing in 2008. Barwick also took home a silver medal in the Mixed – Championship Grade II competition.
Beyond a pair of bronze medals from Karen Brain at the 2004 Athens Paralympics, much of Canada’s para-dressage success lies in the 1984 Games that were held between New York and Stoke Mandeville.
Those Games saw Arlene Aikenhead earn silver in Mixed Dressage – Elementary Walk C1-2 and Tim Hamilton win Bronze in that same event. Chene La Rochelle took a double-bronze home from those Games in Mixed Dressage – Advanced Walk-Trot C4-5 and Elementary Walk-Trot C4-5.
Meet the Team
Lauren Barwick, Robyn Andrews, Ashley Gowanlock, and Roberta Sheffield make up the four-woman team that will represent Canada in the para-dressage arena this September.
While Barwick, riding atop her horse Onyx, leads the Canadian team in Paralympic experience entering her fourth Games, Gowanlock is not far behind as Rio will be her third.
At the London Paralympics (2012) Gowanlock placed 6th in both the Individual Freestyle Mixed and Individual Championship Mixed events. The Surrey, B.C. native is also coming off some recent success with a trio of first-place finishes in CPEDI 3* Touch of Class in Langley, BC (Grade 1b freestyle, individual, and team). Gowanlock will be riding Di Scansano in Rio.
Sheffield will be an interesting competitor to watch as she’s also competed successfully in able-bodied dressage competitions, including placing fourth at the 2014 World Equestrian Games after qualifying three horses. Sheffield, who will be riding Double Agent, is from the United Kingdom but has competed athletically under the Canadian flag since 2014.
Newfoundland’s Robyn Andrews is also making her Paralympic debut, and won all three classes in the recent CPEDI 3* Touch of Class event (Grade 1a freestyle, individual, and team). Andrews, along with her horse Fancianna, will be the first person from Newfoundland and Labrador to represent Canada in equestrian at the Olympic or Paralympic level.
The FEI World Individual Para-Dressage Rankings, as of June 29th, have Gowanlock as the top-ranking Canadian in 31st with Barwick ranking 46th. Sheffield ranks 67th while Andrews sits in 90th. In the Team Para-Dressage Rankings, Canada currently sits in 10th place out of 22 ranked nations.
Canada’s para-dressage team has a combination of experience, talent, and recent in-competition success that should allow them to outperform those current world rankings in the upcoming Games.
Expect to see Barwick and Gowanlock rank well in their competitions, but don’t rule out Sheffield and Andrews as dark-horse contenders in their first Paralympic Games.
Para-dressage events get underway on on September 11th at the Olympic Equestrian Centre and run through to the 18th.
Photo: Phillip MacCallum/Canadian Paralympic Committee