Paralympics reflections: Equestrienne Laurentia Tan rides through the pain

Laurentia Tan had to compete in the equestrian individual freestyle test while enduring pain, but soldiered on in what was her third Paralympic outing.
Laurentia Tan had to compete in the equestrian individual freestyle test while enduring pain, but soldiered on in what was her third Paralympic outing.PHOTO: SPORT SINGAPORE

Paralympian, who was hurt by a fall before the Games, opted to compete in Rio anyway

Despite suffering a nasty fall off her horse that left her bedridden for eight weeks, pulling out of this month's Paralympics never crossed the mind of equestrienne Laurentia Tan.

The Rio Games were the 37-year-old's first time in three outings when she returned without a medal.

While there was speculation that the dip in her results was due to her recent change to a new horse, Fuerst Sherlock, she revealed to The Straits Times that she was in fact riding through a lot of pain after a fall this year that injured her spine and caused additional pain in her neck and shoulders.

PLAGUED BY PAIN

I tried not to think of the pain and just focus on the competition. (But) it did affect me; my grip especially. I couldn't even hold up a pen.

LAURENTIA TAN, national equestrienne, on the pain in her shoulders and spine caused by her fall that also affected her during the Rio Paralympics.

On her arrival at Changi Airport from Rio de Janeiro yesterday morning, she opted to sit on an electric scooter instead of walking independently as she usually does.

The para-athlete, who suffers from cerebral palsy, a movement disorder, and impaired hearing, told The Straits Times: "The pain is (in) my shoulders and spine, it hurts all the time. I tried not to think of the pain and just focus on the competition. (But) it did affect me, my grip especially. I couldn't even hold up a pen."

Tan's schedule was arranged so that she only had to be at the stables with sufficient time to warm up with the horse. Beyond that, she would try to rest by lying flat and using physiotherapy sessions.

She is planning to receive treatment both in Singapore, while she is here for two weeks, and in London, where she is based.

The fall came after her former horse, Ruben James 2 - the steed she rode to win her silver and bronze medal at the London 2012 Paralympics - was startled during a warm-up session at a competition in Deauville, France, in April.

Her mother, Jannie Tan, who returned to Singapore with her daughter, recalled: "There was some noise or commotion outside and the horse got spooked and just cantered off and he cantered round and round a few times.

"It was so scary for me sitting there watching."

However, getting back in the saddle was never an issue for Singapore's first Paralympic medallist, who won two dressage bronzes in China in 2008. She said: "I love riding and I wanted to compete and felt I could still do my best."

Her mother added: "She loves riding, so getting back on the horse wasn't the most difficult. It was going through the pain and the fact she wasn't able to ride as well."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2016, with the headline 'Tan rides through the pain'. Print Edition | Subscribe