Brilliant Baker claims Great Britain's first equestrian gold in individual dressage
14:30 GMT, 1 September 2012
Natasha Baker's 12-year dream came true amid cheers and tears at Greenwich Park as she won a first British equestrian gold medal of the London Paralympic Games.
Baker, from Uxbridge in Middlesex, scored a Paralympic Grade II record 76.857% on Cabral to claim the individual dressage title, but only after a powerful twin German challenge fell just short.
Defending Paralympic champion Britta Napel scored 76.048% for second on Aquilina 3, with Angelika Trabert and Ariva-Avanti (76.000per cent) third.
Golden glory: Natasha Baker celebrates at Greenwich Park
But it was an emotional Baker's day as she fulfilled the vow made to her parents Lorraine and Phil in 2000.
'From the age of 10 when I watched the Sydney Paralympics on television I said I would come to a Paralympic Games and win a gold medal,' recalled the 22-year-old.
'But to come to my first Games and win gold, I never expected that in a million years.'
Magic moment: Baker won gold at her first Paralympics
Baker's mother remembers the day
well, adding: 'When she told me, I didn't doubt her. Growing up, she has
always been a very positive, determined young lady.
'So when she did announce to us at
that young age that it was what she wanted to do, I thought “yes, I do
believe you can, and you probably will”.
'As a young child, she was a very good swimmer, she played the violin and the piano, but she kept coming back to the riding.'
Despite an early draw in the 23-rider competition, Baker delivered a calm and controlled performance, sparking what is expected to be a Games gold rush for the dressage quintet of Baker, Lee Pearson, Sophie Wells, Deb Criddle and Sophie Christiansen.
But she had an anxious wait of almost two hours before the 18 remaining riders completed their dressage tests and she could finally relax.
'This is just the most incredible feeling in the world – and I get a post box and stamps now!' said Baker, who suffers from transverse myelitis, which is an inflammation of the spine that affects nerve endings.
'I had an early draw (fifth), and I stayed out the back of the arena for a long time and was texting my boyfriend Sam, who was among the crowd watching, to see what was happening. It was close, and I have literally got no nails left.'
Baker, who is not riding as a British team member but an individual, will now concentrate on Monday's Grade II freestyle competition and the chance of a second gold.
'Hopefully, I can go out on Monday and do the same thing again. That would be incredible,' she said.
'I had always wanted to be a rider, and to be here and do what we've done today is just incredible. The horses make it what it is – they are just amazing animals.
'If you get too big for your boots, they are great levellers and will bring you back down to earth. If I have inspired one person to go out there and do any sport, then I will be over the moon. It was Lee Pearson and the other riders who inspired me when I was 10 years old.'
Roll of honour: Baker took gold from Germany's Britta Napel (left) and Angelika Trabert (right)
Baker's mother is acting as groom during her time in Greenwich, and she accompanied her daughter to the medal podium.
'A lot of hours, a lot of training and a lot of sacrifices have gone into this,' she said.
'It is our lifestyle – the horses are our lives – and this is just mind-blowing. There have been lots of tears, but lots of happy tears.'