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Wycombe rider misses out on Paralympics
ERIN Orford has just beaten the girl tipped to win a gold medal at the Paralympics Games next month, but she won’t be competing herself.
The Wycombe Para Dressage star edged out Natasha Baker at the final selections at Hartpury as she and her nine-year-old mount Morocco hardly put a foot wrong.
But at the end of the week the selectors picked Baker in what was essentially an either/or choice.
Orford, 23, is not at all bitter though.
She said: “I knew it would be very tight. I did really well at Hartpury and won the individual championships ahead of Natasha.
“She was second in the individuals and won the freestyle, where I was second.
“But she has also done really well this year and was the obvious choice.
“The selectors always said they didn’t want to take someone who hasn’t been to a major championships so I’d have probably have had to beat her by a long way.
“I’m obviously disappointed, but it was going to be one or the other and I didn’t have my hopes up too high. I didn’t really expect to go.
“We had a chat afterwards and I congratulated her. She was quite emotional.”
Instead of taking the setback badly, Orford has turned it into a positive for the future and has found plenty of encouragement out of the so-near-yet-so-far verdict.
She said: “The coaches said I should be really proud and that it was a very close decision.
“It’s nice to know I’m a similar level to the person who is going.”
And not just going to make up the number either; Baker, like every rider selected in what is a totally dominant GB squad in the sport, is expected to win.
Orford said: “I think she’s the favourite for the gold.
“There are some good riders in our grade from other countries – there are some good German, Dutch and Canadian riders – but having won the European Championships Natasha definitely goes there as the favourite.
“And because I was shortlisted I think I get allocated tickets so I’ll be there watching.”
There must be a tinge of jealousy though.
Apart from losing out in what might as well have been a toss of the coin, Orford is also a victim of a more inclusive philosophy.
She said: “It was probably down to the fact that that we [GB] just don’t have enough spaces.
“Normally we have seven spots but this year we only have five. I think it’s to encourage riders from other countries.
“But Natasha has earned her place and there is always next time.
“We’ve got the European Championships in Denmark next August so I’ll keep working towards that and see what happens afterwards.”
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