National para-equestrian rider Laurentia Tan celebrated turning 37 yesterday in style with a winning performance over the weekend at the International Para-Equestrian Dressage Competition (CPEDI3*) in Waregem, Belgium.
She collected a gold and two silvers at Quadrille, the second major European international para-equestrian dressage event of the year, which drew 71 riders from 20 countries.
In the Grade 1a Freestyle event yesterday, the competition's final day, Tan - riding her regular horse, Ruben James 2 - scored 76.950 percentage points and finished second behind Great Britain's Sophie Christiansen (77.125 points). Brazil's Sergio Oliva was a distant third on 70.800 points.
In Friday's Grade 1a Team Test, the Singaporean also narrowly lost out to Christiansen, a five-time Paralympic champion who was aboard her long-time partner Janeiro.
Tan then turned the tables during Saturday's Grade 1a Individual event. She scored 73.261 percentage points to edge out her British rival (72.826 points) for the gold in the 10-women field.
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 years 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 to 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 (50m backstroke S3).
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.