Sharon’s next appearance at a Paralympics came at Rio de Janeiro in 2016. With Odie retiring midway through their London 2012 selection campaign, a new horse by the name of Ceasy accompanied Sharon to Brazil. The KWPN mare was found through the help of Equestrian Australia and the Winning Edge Program, and Sharon gained the ride through syndication at the beginning of 2015 — just over a year out from the Games. A talented but tricky mare, they scored well and placed in the top 10 in the Individual Test.
“Rio presented an interesting situation for us with gunfire going off in the background before our test and me just being lucky to make it into the arena, so to come home with a top 10 placing in the Individual Championship Test, I was very happy with that,” recalled Sharon following those Games.
The road to Tokyo wasn’t without its setbacks; the horse she initially hoped to qualify on, Lord Larmarque, was unfortunately sidelined due to injury. With encouragement from coach Rozzie Ryan, Sharon found Donnella Merrett’s Romanos; Sharon and her new “unicorn” hit the ground running. For Sharon, in many ways the postponement of the Games was a blessing, and despite only having two years with Romanos, they made the team.
Supported by groom Ashleigh Campton and coach Rozzie Ryan, Sharon contested a record third Games in Tokyo, scoring 68.366% in the Grade IV Individual Test and 67.9% in the Team Test. Reflecting on Romanos following her final salute, she said: “I absolutely love that horse for what he went and did for me. He is 19 years old and he has never ever been in anything like that ever before. We have had two years together and he tried his absolute little heart out for me, and that is all I can ask of him. He was brave, he listened to me and I’m just so lucky and grateful to be on a horse like him.”
Sharon had always planned to retire from the sport post-Tokyo, and therefore the moment was bittersweet: “I have had a wonderful two years (with Romanos) improving my skills, learning so much more, and the part that makes it a lot harder is that I made a choice before Tokyo that this would be my last Games. It is incredible, it is emotional. You know I was really lucky to get to one Games and to make it to three is just, for me, unbelievable for what it has taken to get here.
“I am 100% sad at the same time, because it was my last ride on this horse. He gets returned to his owners when he returns from Tokyo and it just makes me so emotional because I have absolutely loved riding this horse.”
A new chapter now beckons for Sharon following her retirement — and of course, it still involves the sport she loves. At the beginning of this year, she was appointed Equestrian Australia’s new Para Equestrian Pathways Co-ordinator.
Speaking to Equestrian Life prior to the Games, Sharon was excited about her new role: “It’s really exciting, because it’s not a role that has been available previously. I also think it’s quite exciting being the first person with a disability to be employed by our national sporting organisation to be involved with the actual sport. I think that produces a really incredible opportunity to make a difference within the sport.
“Para equestrian is definitely my passion, and to be able to work with my passion, I don’t think you can ask more of that out of the job!”