Sophie Christiansen setting her sights on Tokyo 2020
PUBLISHED: 16:23 15 May 2019 | UPDATED: 16:26 15 May 2019
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The Ascot-born dressage rider has five world titles, a first class Master of Science degree, a CBE and eight Paralympic gold medals under her belt. The 31-year-old now has her sights set on a fifth Paralympics at Tokyo. Her achievements are even more impressive as she was diagnosed at birth with cerebral palsy
Growing up in Sunningdale, you attended Charters School and started riding for therapy at the age of six. Tell us more!
I owe it all to the charity Riding for the Disabled (RDA). No one in my family is horsey - my mum is allergic - so I don't think I'd have ridden if it hadn't been for my condition. I've always been very driven and needed something to focus on, so I moved to the South Bucks RDA group, who specialise in taking people from therapy riding to sports riding. I got into para-dressage and never looked back! I won the RDA National Championships when I was 14, so I knew I had some talent.
Your first Paralympic Games was in Athens 2004 aged 16…
I was just going for the experience, but my coach at the time knew I could do it. I was pretty surprised to win the individual bronze.
As well as competing in top level sport, you also work two days a week for investment bank Goldman Sachs…
When I'm working, I'm focussed on that, and when I'm riding I'm doing that 100% as well. I also have a great team of people to help. As a para-rider, it's difficult for me to make riding my full-time career. Most top-level riders also break and school other people's horses, but that's not an option for me. Sport at the top can be intense and it's great to have another life to switch into for a break.
Describe your horse, 17.2hh chestnut Amazing Romance…
Harry, as he's known at home, is a bit of a sensitive ginger!
What are the main challenges disabled riders face?
Para-sport isn't glamorous compared to mainstream sport. Watching a horse and rider floating round a Grand Prix dressage test is more of a spectator sport than me walking round a para-test! I have some funding from UK Sport but para-riders have to be more self-funding than those competing in mainstream sport. I'm worried about the next generation of para-riders as standards in para-dressage have increased and now you need a top-level horse to get anywhere, and a budget of at least £30,000 for that. I've started a membership club to offer a unique experience into the world of paralympic sport, and I hope it will prove a successful model for future riders to follow.
What's in your pockets?
Snacks! I get 'hangry' if I'm hungry so I keep emergency rations on me!
What do you watch on TV?
I recently watched Daredevil, a series about a blind superhero.
If you won £10 million on the lottery, what would you do?
I'd buy a horse, then I'd support para competitions by increasing the prize money.
What tattoo would you get?
I'd like the Paralympic symbol, which is three coloured 'agitos' instead of the Olympic rings.
You have lived in Maidenhead for the past four years. Any favourite places?
My local, The Windsor Castle pub.
Best Berkshire day out?
Windsor Great Park. Berkshire is close to my heart as it's where I grew up and became who I am today.