Equestrian great Sir Lee Pearson expects further Paralympic glory to bring out his emotional side as he prepares for his maiden Games competing on a homebred horse.
Pearson travels to Tokyo 2020 seeking to add to his remarkable haul of 11 gold medals gained across five previous Paralympics.
This summer will mark another milestone moment for the decorated 47-year-old when he attempts to maintain his winning formula with “sensitive gentleman” Breezer, a nine-year-old gelding he reared from birth.
“If we do good out there, you will probably see the emotional side of Lee and it will come to the front,” he told the PA news agency after being confirmed in Great Britain’s four-person dressage team alongside Sophie Christiansen, Natasha Baker and Sophie Wells.
“I saw him the morning that he was born in the field, still covered in stuff you don’t want to discuss, slightly wet looking, to where he is today and hopefully where he’s going.
“He is a sensitive gentleman, he spent quite a few years quite frightened of the world.
“They are natural fear animals, they always think there is a tiger behind that leaf that’s just fallen off a tree or that road works sign; they think, ‘oh my God, they’re going to eat me’ and he’s been to a degree a slightly exaggerated version of that.
“But over this last couple of years, especially this year, he really trusts his dad now and instead of going, ‘oh my God, I can’t cope’, he normally goes, ‘dad, you look after me and help me pass this scary brick, or human, or trolley, or pram, or tractor’.
“He is a sensitive soul but he’s very loving.”
Pearson’s paternal instinct is no longer limited to horses.
The Staffordshire-born rider, who has arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, which means he cannot move his ankles or knees, last year took on the responsibility of becoming a single parent.
He will be cheered on from home by a 15-year-old foster son, who stays with his parents when Pearson is away competing.
“There’s loads of unique things happening in my life, like the school run and being forced to watch football matches, along with saying, ‘no, your girlfriend cannot be in your bedroom’,” Pearson said of being a father.
“I was driving here today and thinking, ‘will I end up saying something like: this is for him, if I do win a medal?’ I think he’d love it but also be very embarrassed.
“I just know I will be more emotional because I do miss him, he’s a great kid and he misses me. Three weeks away will be quite stressful for us so hopefully FaceTime works in Japan.”
Pearson won three medals at successive Games in Sydney, Athens and Beijing, plus one each at London 2012 and Rio 2016.
He was selected as Britain’s flagbearer for the opening ceremony in Brazil before being knighted four years ago for services to equestrianism and disability sport.
The grade two rider has no intention of retiring any time soon and hopes to continue his Paralympic journey in Paris in 2024, while Los Angeles four years later remains a possibility.
Asked about his longevity, he replied: “It just comes from the love of horses.
“I am competitive, I’m not going to say I’m not, but competitiveness doesn’t get you through 365 days and the winter months and the days when the horses are trying to kill you and you’re thinking, ‘I’m really too old to be dragged around by a horse through bushes and hedges and hanging on for grim death sometimes’.
“I love horses, I love training horses, and I just like to show my horses’ talent and, if I’m having a good day, my talent as well.
“That’s what’s gained those gongs.”