Equestrian Jonathan Wentz takes fourth at London 2012 Paralympic Games
LONDON - Over the last four days para-equestrian dressage athletes have had their opportunity to place their best foot forward in the Greenwich Park arena, the venue for the London 2012 Paralympic Games. The first two days of the 2012 Paralympic equestrian competition consisted of the team test where Great Britain dominated four of the five grade levels. Over the last two days during the para-dressage individual test competition however, individual powerhouses overthrew Great Britain's reign. One of those athletes working towards capturing a medal was Jonathan Wentz and NTEC Richter Scale, owned by Kai Handt.
Wentz has traveled around the country gaining experience for himself and his horses before qualifying for London and heading to the Paralympics. In 2010 at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ Wentz came close to winning a medal with NTEC Richter Scale at his first World Equestrian Games. With his hunger for more, Wentz, his trainer Kai and his support team set off to prepare for the 2012 London Games. As they prepped Richter and multiple back-up horses Wentz began winning the Grade Ib championships at many international competitions. These wins placed him in the top ten of the FEI World Rankings where he maintained his position throughout the 2012 show season. Nothing could stand in Wentz's way as he armed himself with a stellar horse and the support of the United States Equestrian Federation's Para-Dressage team.
For the Individual Test at the London Paralympics, Wentz drew an early spot in the order just in front of Lee Pearson of Great Britain. As the horse and rider combination of Richter and Wentz executed each technical requirement the judge's scores began to increase. Although Wentz had a test that was respectable, moments of imperfection would earn him a score of 70.348%. Jonathan's position would first be moved by Lee Pearson and horse Gentleman with a 75.391%. Then Australian athlete Joann Formosa and Worldwide PB would perform a 75.826% knocking the nine-time Gold Medal athlete Lee Pearson from his podium. With only two horses to go Pepo Puch of Austria and horse Fine Feeling would push Wentz into fourth place.
"We are proud of Jonathan," noted horse owner and trainer Kai Handt. Out of the United States Equestrian Federation's Eventing, Show Jumping, able-bodied Dressage, and Para-Dressage placing thus far Wentz has the highest placing of any of the United States Equestrian Team members.
"There's still way more to come," smiled Wentz. "During the Team Test we got hit for being too conservative but today we went too much the other way and hit too hard on the accelerator. We got way too wobbly in the trot-work and the walk-work. We finally scored the way we were hoping in other parts of the test but the trot work hurt us. I was happy with the turn on the haunches and my walk work since it was a place we improved upon within our test."
Although Wentz did not stand on the podium for the Individual Test it gave him that much more desire to be there next time. The question will remain as the 2012 London Paralympics comes to an end if we will see the handsome eighteen year-old at the World Equestrian Games in Rio, or if a retirement is in his future.
As the Grade Ib Gold, Silver, and Bronze Medal winners stepped up to the podium for the Individual Test Australian Joann Formosa (AUS), Lee Pearson (GBR), and Pepo Puch (AUT) exchanged a congratulatory embrace.
"I came here to win and I wanted gold," exclaimed Formosa. "This has been my goal my entire life. I love this sport, I love my horses, and when I am aboard my horse there is a feeling of freedom. I couldn't be happier to have won this medal and I couldn't have earned this without my support team, fundraising, family, friends, and fans."
Pearson genuinely noted, "I am really happy with earning Silver, believe me. It has been a tough competition and Joann rode beautifully. I am actually over the moon; It would have been amazing to win a gold but I am happy to place this medal up on the wall with my past medals."
He continued, "Of course I will be back in Rio to redeem myself. I love horses and I love this sport. Although I wouldn't be able to do this sport without the help of everyone on Team Great Britain, our sponsors and staff, our country, and of course the United Kingdom Lottery."