Sunday, August 17, 2008

Aussie Hero Hayley Saddles Up at the Last Minute for the Ride of Her Life

Australian dressage rider Hayley Beresford's Olympic performances have had people from many countries cheering for her! (Equestrian Federation of Australia photo)

If you're looking for a hero among the dressage princes and princesses assembled in Hong Kong, here's one you can look up to.

Opening the action today was Australia's Hayley Beresford who, long before she ever arrived in Hong Kong this summer, had already climbed a mountain of Olympic proportions. The 30-year old rider was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago but, with typical toughness and determination, she hardly missed a day in the saddle throughout the intensive treatment that saw her win her battle back to good health.

Hayley came to Hong Kong with her 11-year old Brazilian-bred Lusitano stallion Relampago do Retiro. As if that Brazil-Portugal-Australia connection isn't international enough, consider this: Hayley lives in Germany, where she trains with the current gold medal leader, Isabell Werth.

Asked if she had advice for struggling amateur riders at home, Hayley quipped, "You have to go through the ups and downs and believe in yourself …or go home!"

Hayley had missed today's Grand Prix Special qualifier by one place, but when Hunter Douglas Sunrise became lame, the Dutch team withdrew him, so one place opened up...and Hayley passaged through on very short notice.

She is now in 19th place, improving on her position from the team competition, although not good enough for her to advance to the freestyle on Tuesday.

No one cheering for her in Australia, Portugal, Brazil and Germany feels the least bit disappointed. This rider had something for everyone, on many levels.

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