Celebrating Out Athletes
Publish Date: 02/08/2012
Lee Pearson is often described as the world’s most successful Paralympics dressage rider. He has amassed a total of 27 gold medals since starting Paralympics dressage competitions in 1998. He set an Equestrian world record by being unbeaten at three consecutive Paralympics Games. In 2003, he became the only disabled person to have won a title at the British Dressage National Championships competing against non-disabled riders when he took the 2003 elementary restricted finals.
These are amazing feats for anyone but even more so when you consider that Lee has a condition called arthrogryposis, which means his muscles didn’t grow correctly and he does not have mobility in his ankles or knees and also has restricted movement in his other limbs.
Lee had 15 major operations to straighten his limbs as a child but he has never let his disability get him down and has no plans to have any more operations at the present time.
It has never been a problem for him or others around him however, he wasn’t bullied at school and in fact was Mr Popular and even dated a girl in the year above.. oh how times have changed!
Lee recently became civilly partnered to his other half Mark Latham. He has gone on to win three gold medals at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, U.S.A in October. There seems to be no stopping this man who at just 36 years old has already achieved so much in his life.
27 gold medals is an amazing achievement. Is there one single medal that you are most proud of?
“The first Paralympics gold medal which was won in Sydney in 2000 has to be the one.”
Many people would never think of getting involved in a sport like dressage or even think it was available to them, what would you say to anyone who would like to give it a try?
“Dressage is just the training of a horse to be more balanced and responsive, there are riding schools all over the country and they are not very expensive and easily accessible to people who would like to ride. But like any sport at an elite level it does become more expensive.”
In recognition of your equestrian success and services to disability sport, you were awarded an MBE in 2001, an OBE in 2005 and then a CBE in the 2009 New Year’s Honours list. Is there anything you have not yet achieved that you would like to?
“A knighthood would have been nice after the past three games. It’s strange that a Paralympics athlete has to win much more than an Olympic athlete to gain the same recognition within the honours system.”
If you hadn’t gone into equestrian sports what would you have done?
“I would like to have been a car racing driver. Racing cars at a fast speed is all about feel, feeling the vibrations, seat, power, speed. This is the same as riding a horse, it is all about the feel, feeling to make changes, not to make changes through the seat.”
You came out when you were 21 years old was it a difficult process for you?
“Very difficult, I neither wanted to be gay or disabled in an ideal world. But we don’t have the choice to change who we are, I am now very happy with who I am and make no apologises to anyone about being myself.”
We often here how important it is for the gay community to have people in the world of sport to be out to the public - what are your views on this?
“I thinks it is very important for not only the gay community to have an association with successful gay people from all walks of life, not just in front of the media but it is also good for the general public to have positive exposure to gay and disabled people and accept them as an important and normal part of society.”
Who is your Homo Hero ?
I think Gareth Thomas was a very brave man and I admire his courage to come out. Some sports are perceived to be more masculine then others and hence can be more difficult for people to come out. I don’t understand though how kicking a ball around is perceived to be more masculine than riding half a ton of powerful crazy horse?!
Do you have a motto that you live your life by?
“Make the most of every opportunity. Try and enjoy every day!”
You can watch Lee competing in the 2012 Paralympic Games. For more information visit www.leepearson.co.uk
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