What an earth is Para Equestrian doing competing in Shot Put at national Championships of Para Athletics? Making a statement.
I have to start from Para-Dressage because the story has its roots in my own no 1 sport. In Finland we have extremely strict qualification system to National Championships in Para-Dressage. Even if you compare it globally to other countries. At least the ones I've been able to track down through internet. In Finland there is only little over 50 Para-Dressage riders with classification (situation in summer 2018). Competing happens in three levels, roughly put Level 1 is sort of riding club/local, Level 2 is regional and Level 3 is national. Level 2 competitions are nonexistent, only couple of competitions during the year. That means almost all competing happens in Level 1 and 3.
So if a rider wants to aim to National Championships in Para-Dressage, she or he is facing a long haul project. First you have to get two results of at least 55% from specific Para-Dressage Tests to get yourself qualified to Level 3. Then you have to get two results of at least 57% from own grade's latest version of FEI's Individual Test to qualify for National Championships. And bear in mind that National Championships are held in mid-June and this year there was only 4 competitions in Level 3 where you could ride the test. That is if you had already qualified to Level 3 last year or get a "free pass" straight to Level 3. This year it has been impossible to qualify your way from Level 1 to Level 3 following the rules because in Finland Para-Dressage committee doesn't approve results from FEI's new Introductory tests as a qualification to Level 3. And guess what, There has been only those new lovely tests on Level 1 because those tests do not put so much weight on quality of the horse especially when it comes to grade IV and V Para-Dressage riders.
Last winter I learned about Para Athletics and how National Championships are conducted in Finland. Everyone with a disability is welcome to compete. No qualifications whatsoever! If you don't know your classification that is not a problem either, you simply enter to open class! Holy moly, that could only mean one thing: One Para Athlete's small demonstration. In early Spring I took a brand new challenge and started to learn new sports with my coach Päivi Määttä from my hometown's own track and field club Kärkölän Kisa-Veikot. I started Shot Put and Javelin. Javelin proved to be somewhat difficult with my hard neck brace so we decided to focus on Shot Put. And I actually enjoy it tremendously.
Before the National Championships we had eight training sessions and I entered one competition. My classification was defined just before National Championships and it was borderline in between F37 and F38. It ended up being F38.
So there I was, Para Equestrian competing at National Championships in a sport I started few months earlier. I came home with silver medal. Meanwhile I can only dream of participating National Championships in my own sport which I've been doing all my life. I guess that tells the story of difference between Para Sports in Finland. They couldn't be further from each other.