One of three golds at Rio in 2016
|Birth name||Sophie Margaret Christiansen|
14 November 1987 |
Ascot, Bracknell Forest, Berkshire, England
|Achievements and titles|
|Paralympic finals||2004, 2008, 2012, 2016|
|Highest world ranking||1|
Sophie Margaret Christiansen, CBE (born 14 November 1987) is an English equestrian who has competed in three successive Paralympic Games, winning numerous medals. In 2012 and 2016 she gained three gold medals at the paralympics.
Christiansen was born two months prematurely with cerebral palsy and suffered from other health problems including jaundice, blood poisoning, a heart attack and a collapsed lung. At the age of six she began horse riding as a form of physiotherapy at her local Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) group. She was educated at Charters School in Sunningdale, and left in 2006 to study for a master's degree in mathematics at Royal Holloway, University of London.
She first competed at the Paralympics aged 16 and was the youngest athlete for Great Britain at the 2004 Summer Paralympics. She contested both the freestyle and championship dressage grade I, the classification grade for severely disabled athletes. In the freestyle event Christiansen finished fourth with the gold medal being won by British teammate Lee Pearson. The championship grade I dressage saw Christiansen win her first Paralympic medal. Competing with her horse Hotstuff, she took bronze with gold again being won by Pearson. She was named BBC London Disabled Athlete of the Year for 2004.
Following her success in Athens Christiansen was selected to be part of the British team at the 2005 European Championships held in Hungary where she won three gold medals. At the World Championships in 2007 she won a gold medal in the freestyle dressage and a bronze medal in the individual dressage event.
In 2008, she represented Great Britain at the Summer Paralympics. The equestrian events were not held in the host city Beijing but instead took place at the Olympic Equestrian Centre in Hong Kong. Competing in her second Games she again contested the freestyle and championship dressage events but was also part of the British quartet in the team dressage. On her horse Lambrusco she won an individual gold medal in the freestyle and silver in the championship dressage. In the team open Christiansen, with teammates Lee Pearson, Anne Dunham and Simon Laurens won her second Paralympic gold medal. This meant that Great Britain has won a gold medal in this event at four consecutive Games.
Christiansen was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2009 New Year Honours for services to disabled sport. She has a MSci degree (undergraduate honours) in mathematics from the University of London's Royal Holloway College.
Paralympics 2012 saw her claim gold once again as BBC reports: "Sophie Christiansen – Equestrian – Individual Freestyle Test Grade la. How she did it: Sophie won gold with a score of 84.75 on her horse Janeiro 6 finishing 5.75 points ahead of her closest rival."  In honour of her achievements at the London 2012 games the Royal Mail have painted a postbox gold in her original hometown of Sunningdale. She is Britain's first triple gold medallist at the Paralympic games.
In 2015 Christiansen won a 'Women of the Future Award'. It was the first year that a sports category was included and the judges picked out Sophie for her ‘ferocious determination to succeed'.
Christiansen also works as a statistical analyst in the technology department at investment bank Goldman Sachs and has a first class Masters degree in mathematics. In an interview with City AM she talked about the benefits of having "something else to think about". She told The Times that working two days a week helped to "lessen the intensity" of competing at a high level in sport.
In 2016, she gained three gold medals at the paralympics in Rio. She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to para-equestrianism.
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- Royal Holloway notable alumni
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- "Sophie Christiansen interview: Five-time Paralympic champion on why City banking job is vital to her success". City AM. 28 March 2016. Retrieved 13 June 2016.
- "'It takes a unique person to do what I do'". The Times. 27 November 2015. Retrieved 13 June 2016.
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