Gemma outshines Laurentia with 2 debut golds

Gemma outshines Laurentia with 2 debut golds
Laurentia Tan (left) and Gemma Foo completed a three-gold sweep at the International Para-Equestrian Dressage Competition in Deauville, France.

Singapore may well have another world-class para-equestrian rider in addition to multiple Paralympic medallist Laurentia Tan.

Gemma Foo, 18, outshone her older compatriot last weekend, clinching two golds at the International Para-Equestrian Dressage Competition in Deauville, France.

The fast-rising teenager - who like Tan suffers from cerebral palsy - won in the Freestyle and Individual Championship, and also took silver in the Team Test amid a strong field at the April 4-6 event.

Tan - who won one silver and three bronzes at the 2008 and 2012 Paralympics - took the Team Test title to complete a three-gold sweep for Singapore in the Grade (1a) events, in which the most severely impaired athletes compete.

The 34-year-old also finished second in the Freestyle event and was placed sixth in the Individual Championship.

Twenty nations competed at the three-day competition, which is part of the Nations Cup, the sport's top international circuit.

Several Paralympic medallists competed as many nations used the competition as preparation for August's World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France.

Foo's result suprised many, including herself, as she was making her debut in the top-tier international competition and competing on nine-year-old gelding Cassis Royal for only the second time.

Said the CHIJ St Theresa Convent student, who is also preparing for her O Levels this year: "Before I got into the arena, I just tried to keep myself calm and had no expectations.

"I'm still feeling shocked at the result because it was so unexpected. I'm still asking myself, 'Are you sure you got that result?'"

Foo's result in the freestyle event, in which she scored 78.100 points, was a clear victory over Tan (74.650) and Ireland's Helen Kearney (74.300), the London 2012 silver and bronze medallists respectively in the event.

Said team manager Monique Heah: "Both Gemma and Cassis Royal were in top form yesterday. They did a great job scoring a personal best (to win) the event."

Added Melanie Chew, president of the Equestrian Federation of Singapore: "For Laurentia, we always knew she would do well, but for young Gemma to beat Laurentia was a real surprise. Both girls dominated the competition.

"Gemma will have a long career on her new horse. If she keeps this ride, and maintains these scores, she should (clinch a) medal at Rio 2016."

This article was published on April 8 in The Straits Times.

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