A SCOTS paralympian has died aged 34 after contracting a rare lung condition, it yesterday emerged. Jo Pitt passed away less than a month after winning the British dressage’s winter championships.
Tributes were paid to the para-equestrian, from Huntly, in Aberdeenshire, who was only diagnosed with pulmonary veno-occlusive disease – which causes veins in the heart area to narrow – ten days before she died.
The star was part of the Great Britain para-dressage team that won gold at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky.
David Hunter, British para-equestrian dressage performance manager, said: “It’s difficult to comprehend that ten days ago Jo was her fit and healthy self, training her horses each day and determined to make selection for the European Championships in August.
“She had recently moved to Norfolk and had just moved into a new family home. She had everything going for her. She will be greatly missed and never forgotten.”
And British equestrian performance director Will Connell yesterday said: “Jo was a stalwart of para-equestrian dressage and has fought hard over the past year to establish herself once again as a real medal contender for Great Britain.”
Miss Pitt was born with right-sided hemiplegic cerebral palsy and had no feeling in the right side of the body.
She started riding at the age of six after attending a ten-day summer holiday camp at Hayfield riding school in Aberdeen.
By the time she was eight she had her own pony and was taught the same way as an able-bodied rider.
She represented Britain in dressage at the 2004 Athens Paralympics, finishing eighth, and was in the reserve squad for the 2008 Beijing Paralympics before narrowly missing out on competing in London last summer.
British dressage chief executive Amanda Bond said: “Everyone in the dressage community will be shocked and saddened by losing Jo so suddenly.
“Our hearts and prayers go to her family and friends, especially her parents Bob and Hazel, who dedicated so much to their beloved daughter. No-one was more proud each time she rode.”
Miss Pitt attended Oatridge Agricultural College in West Lothian, gaining an NC and HNC in horse management. She passed her British Horse Society stage 1 exam, but her disability stopped her from progressing further.
At the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games she won bronze in the grade II freestyle test with 74.95 per cent and was part of the gold medal winning team.
She had moved from Aberdeen to Dereham in Norfolk to be with her fiancé Rory.