By Andrew Warren – Swindon Advertiser
EQUESTRIAN star Anne Dunham has been given a massive boost ahead of next year’s Paralympics after being named the Sunday Times Disabled Sportswoman of the Year.
The Broad Hinton rider picked up a team gold and two individual golds at the European Para-Equestrian Dressage Championships in Belgium earlier this year on board her horse Teddy.
Her achievement was recognised at a ceremony at the offices of the Sunday Times in London on Wednesday night.
The 63-year-old is classified as a grade 1a rider, the level for the most disabled riders, after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when she was 27, and has been wheelchair bound since she was 30.
Dunham has won five Paralympic gold medals since first competing in Atlanta in 1996, and her latest award will take pride of place with the other prizes she has picked up in her glittering career.
“I am absolutely amazed to have won this award, and it was a real surprise for me,” she said.
“I am immensely proud and honoured to have picked up the award and I think it says a lot, not only for how well I have performed this year, but also for the sport as a whole.
“It has been a very good year for me which has culminated in this award, but it is special for the sport too because it gives it a massive lift and is recognition of the big strides it has made in the last few years.
“I could not have done this without the help of my sponsors Sally Anne Brown, Pammy Hutton and James and Jill Hussey, as well as Optimum Mobility, so it has been a real team effort.”
Dunham will now focus her attention on winning one of only five places on the British Paralympic team for the London games next year, and told the Advertiser taking part in her fifth games would be even more special than the previous four.
“We will not find out until June or July whether we have made the team, but I would like to think I have a decent chance,” she said. “I need to keep up the form I have shown this season so far and produce it again, and if I do that, I think I can get there.
“It would be amazing to compete in the Paralympics again, and to do it in London would be even more special.
“It is something I never thought I would do, but to have competed four times already and then to compete in London is truly amazing. Greenwich is a superb setting, and I am looking forward to hopefully competing and raising the profile of our sport.
“The eyes of the world are going to be on London, which will mean people will see our sport who have not seen it before and we will be able to show it off in all its glory.”