Tuesday, 20 December 2016

The Paralympic Golden Girl Who Beat The Odds

Sophie Christiansen

Paralympics gold medallist Sophie, 29, had issued a touching last minute appeal for votes ahead of the awards – because she was sure most of the public had never heard of her and she did not want to finish last.

With nearly 40,000 votes, Sophie finished ahead of cycling superstar Laura Kenny and the four other female athletes among the 16 finalists.

She was behind only winner Andy Murray, Alistair Brownlee, Nick Skelton and Mo Farah.

Humble Sophie, who has won eight gold medals, warmed the hearts of millions when she took to the stage at the showpiece event wearing a bright red dress and flashing a huge smile after her inspirational story had been told.

She later issued a heartfelt thanks to the British public for backing her all the way.

She wrote on Twitter: “Fifth and top female and top Paralympian with such a strong line-up. I have never been more delighted with a placing lower than first!”

Sophie was born two months prematurely and suffered a heart attack, collapsed lung and blood poisoning, which led to cerebral palsy.

She started riding at the age of six to help her disability.

She has competed in four Paralympic Games, winning 10 medals, including two golds in Beijing in 2008 and three at both London 2012 and Rio this year.

Sophie, of Maidenhead, Berks, has also obtained a first-class degree in mathematics and works two days a week for investment bank Goldman Sachs.

She was made an MBE in 2009 and an OBE in 2013. When she was named on the shortlist for the SPOTY award, Sophie said: “I am so shocked and honoured to be nominated for BBC Sports Personality Of The Year, especially in such an important year for sport where hundreds of athletes are worthy of this award.

“That said, I know that many of the British public won’t know who I am because I compete in a minority sport.

“This is why I need your help not to come last!

“I want to be voted for by the people because I stand for more than just an athlete.

“So please vote for me if you have ever overcome a challenge, believe in the benefits of sport, have a disability but never let that stop you, or just like to support the underdog.”

By the end of Sunday night Sophie had gained an army of new fans.

One viewer, Marc Gillham, wrote on Twitter: “I’m seriously in awe of Sophie Christiansen.”

Another viewer wrote: “What an incredible woman Sophie Christiansen is.”

Grand National and Gold Cup-winning jockey Mick Fitzgerald tweeted: “Sophie Christiansen, you are an inspiration. What an amazing lady.”



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