Roxanne Trunnell wins United States’ first Paralympic gold medal in equestrian in 25 years

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Para equestrian rider Roxanne Trunnell has been making history all year for the United States and continued that trend on her sport’s biggest stage Friday afternoon.

Trunnell, aboard Dolton, won the gold medal in the individual test Grade I at the Tokyo Paralympics. Hers is the first Paralympic medal for the U.S. in equestrian since 2004 and first gold since 1996, when Vicki Sweigart won two golds in the Grade II events.

Trunnell and Dolton earned a score of 81.464% to best reigning world silver medalist Rihards Snikus (80.179% with King of the Dance) and three-time world champion Sara Morganti (76.964% with Royal Delight).

Riding Aladdin, 60-year-old Jens Lasse Dokkan of Norway – the only athlete to compete in all seven Paralympic equestrian competitions – was fourth at 75.929%.

Trunnell has been riding horses most of her life and competed in able-bodied dressage before a suspected mosquito bite would change her life in 2009. At 23 years old, Trunnell became ill with H1N1 virus, which turned into encephalitis. It caused her brain to swell, and a blood clot led to a stroke. She was diagnosed with cerebellar ataxia, which affects her fine motor skills and is the reason she uses a wheelchair.

Now 36, Trunnell entered Tokyo ranked No. 1 in the world across all grades and has held that position in her grade since the beginning of 2020, when she became the first American to earn the top spot in the sport.

The Washington state native was 10th at her Paralympic debut in 2016 with Royal Dancer. She teamed up with Dolton in 2018 and they rode to bronze at the World Equestrian Games, the sport’s equivalent to a world championships, later that year.

In January of this year, Trunnell was the first Para equestrian to be awarded the Whitney Stone Cup, a prestigious domestic honor that has previously gone to Olympic greats Beezie Madden, J. Michael Plumb and McLain Ward.

In March, she and Dolton set a world-record score of 83.334%, then bested it three months later with 84.70% at the Tryon Summer Dressage CPEDI3*. The following day, the pair blew away its own world record with 89.52%.

A full Paralympic Games broadcast schedule is available here. Events can also be streamed on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app, with more info available here.

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