To thunderous applause, Laurentia Tan went down in the record books on September 9 as the first Singaporean to win a Paralympic medal.
In her first Paralympic Games performance, Tan wowed the judges enough to grab the bronze medal with her horse Nothing to Lose, also known as Harvey. This medal, claimed in the Individual Championship Test Grade 1A, also marks the first win for any Asian in a Paralympic Equestrian event.
In front of a full house in the Hong Kong Equestrian Venue at Shatin, Tan scored 68.8 percent on Tuesday.
"I am very happy and I feel good. I'm very excited and honored to be in my first Paralympics," she said.
For her accomplishment, Tan will receive the first Athletes Achievement Award from the Singapore National Paralympic Council, which includes a 25,000 Singapore dollar prize.
In Paralympic Dressage, riders are divided into five groups based on the severity of their disability. Born with cerebral palsy and profound deafness, Tan is categorized in the most severe group.
She qualified to represent Team Singapore for the Beijing Paralympics thanks to high scores in her first international tournament, the 2007 World Para Dressage Championships, held in England.
In addition to qualifying scores in the Individual and Team tests, she took fourth place in the Freestyle to Music class. With her hearing impairment, this trial proved to be quite a challenge, but one that she met very successfully. Imagine guiding a horse to gallop in time to music that you can't hear. Tan relied on her feeling of the horse's movements and her memorization of countless rehearsals to make her mark.
The 29-year-old works in the mental health field in England. As a youngster, she had trouble managing her movements, and struggled with walking and sitting. She began riding at age 5 as a form of physiotherapy, and has shown marked improvements in controlling her motor skills. Now, even driving is a feat she has accomplished.
Tan rides in the Individual Freestyle Test next, on the evening of September 11. "I will get him [her horse, Nothing To Lose] more forward-going. I have chosen South American music with an Oriental touch because I think that music will suit my horse," she said. For a rider who cannot hear the music, this is a testament to Tan's ability to rely on her heart rather than her ears.