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Laurens wins top South West award

Simon Laurens
Laurens won gold and silver at the Paralympics in September

Jersey's Beijing Paralympic dressage gold medallist Simon Laurens has been named the BBC South West Disabled Sports Personality for 2008.

Laurens, 41, won gold in the team event on Ocean Diamond and an individual silver medal in the freestyle event.

"The last six months was really hard work but really worthwhile," he told BBC Spotlight.

"The standard of competition is always high but over the last two and a half years, it has grown and grown."

The equestrian events at the Beijing Paralympics were held in Hong Kong, which posed challenges for both horses and riders.

In a strange way, my MS has helped me. I decided it was going to work for me. These experiences are the best medicine I could ever have.

Simon Laurens
"It was incredibly hot but it was bearable and we were helped by great team management. We prepared as best we could but some days it was up to 38 degrees with 96% humidity. It was really quite tough," Laurens said.

"It was a great atmosphere and there was great camaraderie. To go on and win a couple of medals is the stuff dreams are made of. And I never envisaged it would happen to me.

"It was really emotional. My response whenever the Union Jack was raised was to burst into tears - I couldn't help myself."

Since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2004, Laurens has used his riding as a way to deal with the condition.

"In a very strange way, my MS has helped me. I decided it was going to work for me. These experiences [competing on the world stage] are the best medicine I could ever have.

"Some days I don't function particularly well but it's just a challenge and you've got to get on with it. On the whole, it's a good life and I enjoy what I do."

Next year will see Laurens take Ocean Diamond to the European Championships in Norway, closely followed by the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky.

Laurens (left) picks up his award from BBC Spotlight's Andy Breare
Laurens (left) picks up his award from BBC Spotlight's Andy Breare

There, for the first time, able bodied and para-equestrian events will run side by side. Laurens' ambitions after that are to be part of the London 2012 experience.

"We are focusing on 2012. I have earmarked a horse for it but now it's a matter of getting there and staying in one piece," he said.

Laurens was presented with his award by BBC Spotlight sports presenter Andy Breare at his training base in Gloucestershire.

Also shortlisted for the award were Cornish swimmers Matt Whorwood and Jonathan Fox.

see also
Nominees named for sports awards
21 Nov 08 |  Sports Personality
Laurens hails amazing Paralympics
17 Sep 08 |  Paralympics
GB collect three equestrian golds
09 Sep 08 |  Disability Sport
Criddle and Laurens out of medals
09 Sep 08 |  Disability Sport


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