By Mark Etheridge
With four Paralympic Games under her saddle already, Philippa Johnson is able to take most things in her stride.
As she will, no doubt, the disappointment of being eliminated from the dressage competition in Rio last month and missing out on adding to her gold medals from the Beijing Games eight years ago.
Now back at her Belgium base, Johnson is buckling up for the next part of her equestrian ride.
The first competition day in Rio had gone really well, with her and Lord Louis in great harmony.
The weather, although already hot in the build-up, soared another three degrees Celsius or so, meaning it was 37deg on the day of competition.
‘I think it was just maybe one hot day too many for Lou, his battery was flat and on top of that I also made too many mistakes,’ says
However, the duo still did enough to make the top 7 to go through to the musical kur where things came apart.
Every Paralympian is well aware that it takes loads of blood, sweat and tears to get to the Games… in this case it was a tiny bit of blood that saw her having to exit these particular Games.
Johnson unintentionally nicked her horse’s side with her spur and due to the FEI blood rule, which states any blood found on the horse: mouth, sides etc the rider is eliminated.’
But Johnson has been a fighter all her life and will get right back into the saddle and try again.
A positive persona, she took a lot back to Belgium from Rio.
‘I think I had a major click in my head as to exactly what coach Chris [Haazen] has been asking for all these years. ‘I know it sounds strange but I thought I understood what he wanted but in Rio for the first time I felt it, so I’m excited for the way forward. That been said it may not work and we may have to look at another plan.’
Johnson went on to laud her time in Rio.
‘Everyone was so negative about Rio, saying things wouldn’t be finished on time and questioning the quality of the arenas etc and nothing would be up to scratch but I have to say that besides the 2008 Beijing Paralympics when we were in Hong Kong these were the best equestrian facilities that we have ever had!
‘The stables were fabulous, huge 3m x 5m areas all done on rubber mats, incredible washing bays to wash the horses off. The arenas were first class, they really did an incredible job.
‘Never once did I feel unsafe or threatened in any way, the people where friendly & helpful. They put on a great Paralympics!’
And the ride ahead for Johnson and Co?
‘Now we put our head down, the next major project will be the 2018 World Equestrian Games. Let’s see where those paths lead us.’
Picture of Johnson in Paralympics action in Rio, courtesy of Wessel Oosthuizen/SASPA