Para-sports: Birthday girl Laurentia Tan bags gold and silver at major event in Belgium

National para-equestrian rider Laurentia Tan won a gold and a silver at the International Para-Equestrian Dressage Competition in Waregem, Belgium on April 24, 2016.
National para-equestrian rider Laurentia Tan won a gold and a silver at the International Para-Equestrian Dressage Competition in Waregem, Belgium on April 24, 2016. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - National para-equestrian rider Laurentia Tan celebrated her 37th birthday on Sunday (April 24)in style with a winning performance over the weekend at the International Para-Equestrian Dressage Competition (CPEDI3*) in Waregem, Belgium.

On Friday, the Singaporean - riding her regular horse Ruben James 2 - finished second behind Great Britain's Sophie Christiansen in the Grade 1a Team Test at Quadrille, the second major European international para-equestrian dressage event of the year.

Tan scored 73.565 percentage points while Christiansen, a five-time Paralympic champion and aboard Janeiro, narrowly won with 73.739 points.

On Saturday, Tan captured the Grade 1a Individual. She scored 73.261 percentage points to edge out Christiansen (72.826 points). France's Thibault Stoclin (71.348 points aboard Uniek) was third in the 10-woman field.

The three-day competition ends on Sunday.

Tan, who was named The Straits Times 2012 Athlete of the Year, has won three bronzes and a silver at the Paralympic Games and is Singapore's most bemedalled Paralympian.

She developed cerebral palsy and profound deafness after birth, and moved to the United Kingdom - where she is based - with her parents at the age of three. She took up horse riding at age of five as a form of physiotherapy.

Victory over her rival Christiansen, ranked No. 1 in the FEI Para-Dressage Paralympic Individual Ranking, this close to the Rio Paralympics in September, will be a boost for Tan's gold medal hopes.

Only para-swimmer Yip Pin Xiu, who was named ST's 2015 Athlete of the Year, has won a Paralympic gold medal following her victory at the 2008 Beijing Games.

Tan belongs to the elite group of $40 million Sports Excellence (Spex) Scholarships holders, meant for those with potential to compete at the highest stage.

Athletes, including the likes of table tennis player Feng Tianwei and swimmer Joseph Schooling, identified for the top tier of support, are given a monthly stipend of up to $8,400.

The programme, launched in 2013, is part of the revised High Performance Sports scheme which is aimed at supporting talented athletes with the potential to bag medals at the Asian, world and Olympic levels.