NewsRoxanne Trunnell

Roxanne Trunnell Becomes First U.S. Woman In Quarter Century To Win Equestrian Gold

by Stuart Lieberman

Roxanne Trunnell competes in the grade I dressage individual test event at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 27, 2021 in Tokyo.


Roxanne Trunnell of Richland, Washington, won the grade I dressage individual test event on Friday at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, becoming the first American rider to win a Paralympic medal in equestrian since 2004 and the first to win gold since Vicki Sweigart did so in 1996. She is also now only the third woman to ever win a dressage gold medal for Team USA at either the Olympic or Paralympic Games.

In her second Paralympic Games aboard her 9-year-old partner Dolton, Trunnell recorded a score of 81.464 percent at Tokyo’s Equestrian Park, fending off the challenge from Latvia’s Rihards Snikus, the world’s No. 2 ranked rider who produced a score of 80.179 percent.
Trunnell said she didn't look at the other scores before riding so just went out and did her best.
“I rode as well as I hoped to today,” she said. “Dolton is a great horse. He really seemed to be thrilled to be just with me, the whole test. I'm really proud of him. It feels good to have a Paralympic gold medal, we've been working for this for a while.”

Trunnell’s gold-medal performance capped off a stellar season for her that included a world-record performance at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida, and a No. 1 world ranking across all five Para dressage classifications. Furthermore, her Tokyo finish cemented her meteoric rise to the top of her sport since her bronze-medal breakthrough at the 2018 World Equestrian Games, her first senior championships. She has only been beaten once in international competition since then.
“Better training and finding Dolton really made it all happen,” she said. “I think he's more in tune with me now. He takes care of me up there, and we're bonded really well.”
The 36-year-old was previously an aspiring Olympian in able-bodied dressage before she was an infected by the H1N1 virus in 2009 that put her in a coma and gave her a stroke which resulted in her requiring the use of a wheelchair.
Trunnell said she doesn't remember much about her infection, but she credited her mare at the time with helping her return to the sport.
“She helped compensate with all of that,” Trunnell said. “I was never scared with her, I totally trusted her. She would never have hurt me. Sometimes it seems like all my life is normal. It makes me feel normal.”
Later in the evening, competing in her fourth consecutive Paralympic Games, Rebecca Hart of Erie, Pennsylvania, finished in 11th place in the grade III individual test dressage event. Riding her 12-year-old horse El Corona Texel, she recorded a score of 69.853 percent, finishing nearly 10 percent percent behind the gold-medal winner Tobias Jorgensen of Denmark. She had finished ninth in the event in Rio in 2016, 11th in London in 2012, and 12th in Beijing in 2008.
Born with a genetic disease called hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP), Hart first got involved with Para dressage after attending a competition in Atlanta in 1998 and since then has gone on to compete at several major championships, including three world championships. She won a silver and bronze medal at the 2018 worlds.
The Paralympic equestrian competition in Tokyo will continue with the team test events on Sunday and then concludes with the individual freestyle test events on Monday.

Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020? Visit to view the medal table and results.

Stuart Lieberman covered Paralympic sports for three years at the International Paralympic Committee, including at the London 2012 and Sochi 2014 Games. He is a freelance contributor to on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.