The Incredible Equestrian Champ!

At an early age Sophie Christiansen was handicapped; notwithstanding, at 6 she started riding horses, at 24 won 3 Gold medals at Paralympics Games; she also works as an analyst at a global bank, and shall we add - horses are her best friends!

The Womenz team was privileged to interview Sophie Christiansen a British dressage rider and here’s what they shared with us


Tell us about yourself. What health issues you faced after a premature birth? 

When I was born I had many health issues like blood poisoning, lung problems, brain damage and heart attack, too. Due to these, I contracted Cerebral Palsy which means that I do not have complete control over my body like normal people do.


Sophie at the age of 3

At what age you started horse riding, and why?

I started horse riding at the age of 6. Horse riding helps in balancing the body. Due to my disability my parents thought that horse riding will help me improve physically.

As a child were you afraid of horses?

At such a small age you don’t understand what fear is or what danger you are putting yourself into. I could do it fearlessly because my parents were confident that I could do it.




Where have you done your schooling?

I did my schooling at Charters School in Sunningdale, England and left it in 2006 to study for a Master's Degree in Mathematics at Royal Holloway, University of London. I managed to get a First Class degree.

Tell us about your experience during initial training days. When did you first took part in Paralympics? What was the outcome?

In UK, we have Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA)where disabled people can learn horse riding, without which it wouldn’t have been possible for me to come this far. I started learning dressage from a special RDA centre and got the opportunity to participate in Great Britain at the 2004 Summer Paralympics when I was just 16. I contested both the freestyle and championship dressage grade 1, the classification grade for severely disabled athletes. In the championship grade I won my first Paralympic medal, and in freestyle event I finished fourth. 




What change you saw in yourself after participating in the first Paralympics? 

Great Britain 2004 Summer Paralympics completely changed my life when I saw so may disabled people just confidently getting on with life and succeeding in sport. Before that I was very shy and not confident due to my disability. This really helped me to be more confident.

How do you connect with horses?

Horses are amazing animals. Due my disability I have involuntary movements of my body, and while I am riding my horses automatically understand what I am trying to tell them and they do exactly what I want. Now horses are my good and close friends.




When were you appointed as Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)? 

I was appointed as Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2008. This year I got promoted as the Commander of the Order of the British Empire which came to me as a big surprise. When we compete and get medals we don’t think or expect getting such recognitions. I am really honoured.

What is Sophie other than an Equestrian? 

I also have a day job. I work at an investment bank. I want to highlight that I am not just a Paralympian, but I can do everything like a normal person. I work for Goldman Sachs as an analyst.

What is it like competing with men on the field? Any interesting incident?

I can compete with men on the same field. You don’t have to be strong or fast, it’s all about your skills as a horse rider. Three years ago I wanted to have a female coach who had just given birth to a baby, but the manager of my team was reluctant to have her as my coach because he thought she wouldn’t be able to coach having such a small child. I could somewhat understand his point, but knew that she would be able to do both jobs. She also had support from her family. And she did, coaching me to become a European champion.

As a specially challenged person, do you get special attention? How do you manage it?

I do get a special attention as a Paralympian, which is a real testimony for me. It is also important for me to showcase what you can do even with a disability and set an example for others to follow.

As I said that I also have a day job at an investment bank. I want to highlight that I am not just a Paralympian, I can do everything like a normal person.




Your achievements in representing Great Britain.


Other

2017: Awarded CBE for services to Para-Equestrianism

2016: 5th place in BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2016

2013: Awarded OBE for services to Equestrianism and for disability sport

2012: Awarded Honorary Fellowship of Royal Holloway, University of London

2011: Graduated with a first class masters degree in mathematics MSci from Royal Holloway, University of London

2008: Awarded MBE for services to Disabled Sport

2008: Awarded Raymond Brooks-Ward Trophy for Most Outstanding Young Rider (first ever Para rider to be selected for this award)

2004: BBC London Disabled Athlete of the year

My biggest and most memorable achievement was winning three Gold medals at London Paralympic Games 2012, because it was my home country and it was the biggest Paralympics the world has ever seen.  I came fifth in the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year after a very successful year for British sport.




Your message to other disabled women out there. 

You only live once. You've got to make the most of your life. That’s why I do everything I can. Be proud of whatever you have and do your best.


Sophie, we at TheWomenz team express our earnest appreciation for sharing your encouraging story with us. We believe it will surely stimulate fellow women in every country and continent in the world.


Sophie can be reached on Twitter, Instagram & facebook


First Published: 26-Sep-2017- 19:30


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