Oct 30 2012 By Matt Lewis
Natasha Baker Image 2
WINNING two gold medals is only the beginning for Uxbridge’s Paralympic hero Natasha Baker.
A little more than seven weeks ago, Baker was crowned paralympic champion in two equestrian events at London 2012, after which the 22-year-old knew her life had changed forever.
Baker had dreamed of that moment since watching her idol Lee Pearson compete at the Sydney Games 10 years ago and proclaiming that one day she would follow him.
For most people, winning two gold medals would be enough. However, this determined Para-Dressage star is hoping to go one better and make it three at Rio de Janeiro in four years’ time.
“I’m in a good position at the moment and things are looking good,” Baker told the Gazette. “If everything goes to plan, I’ll hopefully be in line for another two gold medals in 2016.
“I could actually get three medals at 2016 because I could be in the team event. I wasn’t in the team this year because of my lack of experience but hopefully that’ll be different next time.
“It’s great getting to the top but the hardest part is staying there. It’s definitely more pressure on me. Horses have got their own minds though and can do anything they want and that’s what people have to remember.
“A horse can be very different on a day-to-day basis and they can wake up with a headache or a tummy ache but they can’t tell you that. You’ve got to get the best out of them on the day that you’re competing.”
Millions of people watched the talented British star and her horse Cabral, also known as JP, win at London 2012 and the coverage has brought new levels of exposure to both Baker and her sport.
“I went to buy a card for my friend’s birthday the other day and I was recognised,” she continued. “It is so surreal when people come up to me and say ‘did you win the two gold medals?’, and when I went to get a picture at my gold postbox, everyone was watching. Someone went up to my mum and asked her if she knew who I was!
“It’s not too much that it's overwhelming. It’s just enough to enjoy it.
“There has been a massive difference in the sport since the summer. People didn’t even know what dressage was before and now they’re talking about dancing horses. It’s fantastic to get that sort of recognition.
“People like the sport because it is different. It doesn’t have a ball, and it adds a different dimension. I think a lot of people want to learn more about it and so many more people are looking to get involved.
“I spoke to British Dressage and they said they have noticed the difference and a horse-box company I spoke to also told me they’ve had a massive increase in orders.”
Baker is planning to take a well-earned break from competition next month, and
her horse JP is already enjoying some time out of the limelight.
As the long road to Rio begins, the Uxbridge rider is confident of more success but believes that may come with six-year-old Bam Bam and not her 2012 mount.
“JP is on holiday and has had six weeks off,” she said. “I’m planning to go on holiday myself in November because that is the only free time I’ve got at the moment. You should see my diary – it’s jam-packed, but I am enjoying it.
“JP is amazing and very talented but Bam Bam is even more so and, given a bit more time and strength, by 2016 he will be ready.
“I will compete with them side by side and see who the selectors prefer because we don’t actually get to choose who we take to competitions. The selectors will only choose the best horse and the one that is most likely to get medals for me.
“I know that JP won’t ever be sold so I know I’ll always be able to see him, which is the nice thing. He’s done so well and worked so hard for the last few years so it’ll be good for him to have a bit of an easier life – he deserves that.”
Baker contracted transverse myelitis, which causes an inflammation of a section of the spine resulting in permanent nerve damage, lack of balance and sensation, at 14 months old.
She was speaking at a party to celebrate her achievements this summer, held at the Pinewood Hotel in Buckinghamshire.
For more details, go to www.pinewoodhotel.co.uk.