For immediate release
Nine times Paralympic gold medallist Lee Pearson will miss out on selection for the 2011 European Championships in September this year, the last major championships in the sport before London 2012. The 37 year old from Cheddleton in Staffordshire fell from his horse during a training session, injuring his back and putting him out of the saddle for the next eight weeks.
As a member of the elite World Class Performance Squad Lee received specialist medical support through the Lottery funded Programme where an MRI scan revealed he had fractured three vertebrae and crushed a fourth. “The news came as quite a shock” revealed Lee “I thought I must have sprained it as I’m able to carry on with life pretty much as normal. It’s just uncomfortable to ride; I never dreamed it could be broken.”
Although the fractures are stable and Pearson expects to make a full recovery he has been advised not to ride to allow everything time to heal and will be working closely with World Class Programme medical professionals as he recuperates. The enforced rest will mean he will miss the vital selection events, putting him out of contention for selection for the Para Equestrian Dressage European Championships that take place in September this year. It will also deny him the opportunity to add to the tally of 27 championship gold medals he has won so far in his illustrious career at the top of his sport.
Pearson is philosophical about the news: “Nothing is set in stone and I could be riding again sooner than I think but either way it’s much more important that I’m injury free and back in form for the London Paralympics next year.”
Equestrian Team GBR Performance Director Will Connell commented;
"All within the World Class Programme and the Federation wish Lee a speedy recovery and we will ensure he receives the very best support along the road back to the Podium. Lee has been at the epicentre of the Para-Equestrian Team's many medal successes and we will miss him at the European Championships this year. I am sure however that all the other riders on the Programme will re-double their efforts to ensure GBR secure a number of medals at the Championships. We look forward to Lee's return in time for London 2012".
Para-Equestrian Dressage Performance Manager David Hunter added:
“It’s very unfortunate that Lee has had this accident and as a result will miss out on the selection process for the European Championships this year. We are relieved to hear though that it has been picked up early thanks to the excellent medical help we have been able to offer through the World Class Programme. We expect to see him back on board soon and fighting fit for London 2012.”
Once the two remaining selection events at Hickstead and Hartpury competitions have concluded in July, five British riders will be selected to compete at the Para Equestrian Dressage European Championships to be held in Moorsele in Belgium, 1-4 September 2011. The squad will each compete for individual medals and four riders will also contest the team competition where GBR will be looking to retain their unbeaten title. British riders have won team gold at every Paralympic, World and European Championship since the sport began. Lee Pearson will undoubtedly be missed by his fellow team mates but with so much strength in depth British medal hopes will still be high.