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Paralympian Bert Sheffield and horse Wonky take Tokyo by storm despite fire

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A Paralympian achieved a record-breaking score as a condominium burned close to the arena in Tokyo.

Paradressage rider Bert Sheffield and her horse Fairuza, who is known as Wonky, had spent years preparing for this moment and remained focused as acrid smoke and the sound of sirens filled the arena.

Despite this, the pairing achieved a high score of 72 per cent and broke the Canadian team record during their Paralympic performance in August.

Bert Sheffield and her horse Wonky
Bert Sheffield and her horse Wonky

Bert, who has rheumatoid arthritis and competed at the Rio Paralympics, said: “It was a joy to do a Games with Wonky. It was the best games experience I have had.

“When we warming up, we knew something was going on as I could hear the sirens. I could smell the smoke but couldn’t see it.

“There had been a few little earth quakes while we were there so we knew something was going on.

Bert Sheffield
Bert Sheffield

“There was a crack as we turned down the centre line to enter the arena. We entered at slightly more speed then I intended but it was fine. She didn’t do anything else, she didn’t spook or get more tense, she just moved forward which is the best reaction.”

Bert from Bourne is one of the few paradressage riders who has trained her horse. Over the last six years Wonky been transformed from a wildling to a top athlete.

Bert said: “

Wonky is very special. I bought her with the idea of going to Tokyo and she was very much a project.

“She has fulfilled everything I could ask from her.”

Bert has praised the facilities and atmosphere of the Toyko games, which had been delayed last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

She said: “It was a surreal and amazing experience particularly because there was so much speculation over whether it would take place.

“The Japanese hosts made it the most incredible job in such difficult circumstances. It was the best Games it could have been in the circumstances.

“There were hundreds of volunteers who were so welcoming and polite and they such a difference.

“The arena was very purple and I don’t know if it came across on the television but it was really the most beautiful. It felt like we were riding through a cherry blossom field.”

While there was lots of technology at the Games, there was also an emphasis on being environmentally friendly as paralympians were sleeping on cardboard beds.

Bert said: “It was not more or less than other games, it was different. It had a very different flavour. It was incredibly beautiful. It was much more serene and mediative. In many ways it was the introvert games.”

Bert and Wonky are now working towards the World Equestrian Games in Demark next year, and have a competition in Keysoe.

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