Injured Sophie Christiansen flattered by attention

Since nearly winning the IPC’s Athlete of the Month Award, British rider Sophie Christiansen has fallen off her horse, breaking her collarbone. 23 Sep 2013
Sophie Christiansen

Great Britain's Sophie Christiansen sits atop the podium after winning gold in the freestyle grade 1a event at the 2013 JYSK FEI European Para-Dressage Championships in Herning, Denmark.

ⒸLiz Gregg | FEI
By Rob Howell | For the IPC

“I went into accident and emergency and everyone recognised me,” Christiansen laughed. “Just when I wanted to be anonymous.”

After a trio of gold medals in the Grade Ia competition at this year’s JYSK FEI European Para-Dressage Championships, Great Britain’s Sophie Christiansen just missed out on being voted the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) Athlete of the Month for August.

Christiansen was leading the vote until the final day, when she was passed up by New Zealand’s top swimmer Sophie Pascoe, who last month won five gold medals at the IPC Swimming World Championships in Montreal, Canada.

However, Christiansen, who won the individual, freestyle, and team competitions on her horse Janeiro 6 (known as Rio) at the Europeans, is currently taking an enforced break from competition after falling off Rio and breaking her collarbone.

“There’s always that risk in this sport,” she said.

“It was quite a public fall as I was doing a demonstration, but these things happen. I’ll be in a sling for two weeks and then I have it re x-rayed and possibly some physio.”

The hospital she went to for treatment is near to her stables and has a ward named after her.

“I went into accident and emergency and everyone recognised me,” Christiansen laughed. “Just when I wanted to be anonymous.”

Once she’s recovered Christiansen has her sights set on the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, where she hopes to repeat the same titles she won at London 2012 and this year’s European Championships.

“My coach (Clive Milkins) and I have a clear plan,” she said. “We want Rio to have all three World, Paralympic, and European titles.”

In the meantime, as well as being a recognisable and accomplished rider on the British team, Christiansen has also become one of the British media’s favourite “go-to” people to speak about sports for people with an impairment.

It’s a role that has brought her even more into the public eye, especially during the one-year anniversary coverage of London 2012.

“I enjoy that,” she said. “Speaking about other issues away from sport, I’m happy to give my opinions on what it is like living with a disability, as I’m not just an athlete but also someone who works, lives independently, and has a degree in mathematics, too.

“We should use the Games as a platform to speak about disability as the public love the Paralympics and sport but don’t always understand what life as a disabled person can be like. Whenever anyone tells me I’m doing a good job at that, it means I’m doing the right thing.”

However, with that comes more pressure about her performances, and, as shown now, the status of her injury and health.

“Last year was intense and this year I felt there was a lot of pressure on my shoulders,” Christiansen said.

“Even though every year I’ve won gold since I’ve been on the team, this year it felt different as people expected me to win and it was a new feeling having to deal with that.

“I quite enjoyed it though and it was nice to cope with a new challenge.”

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