Paralympic champion Sophie Christiansen is approaching Tokyo with a different mindset, writes Nicola Kenton.
The Godalming equestrian star is an eight-time Paralympic gold medallist with titles in the freestyle and championship dressage events, as well as the team competition.
The 31-year-old has competed in every Paralympic Games since Athens in 2004 when she was 16 having taken up dressage just three years prior.
Christiansen set up a crowdfunding page this year and began the Sophie’s Gold Club last October to help her ensure she could make it to Tokyo.
“After Rio, 2016 wasn’t a particularly enjoyable year for me and I just felt like my team around me weren’t really on the same page and so I decided to start again,” Christiansen said, who was speaking at a Sainsbury’s store in Godalming.
“Now I’ve got a wonderful team who support me, and we just have fun.
“But it’s taken a bit long than I thought it would to get back also because the horse I bought didn’t turn out to be the right match for me
“That set me back a year, but sport is like that it’s always has its ups and downs and hopefully I’m back and can be a good trajectory towards Tokyo with my new young horse.
“It’s been really fun actually just getting to know my fans a bit more and it’s amazing how much they’ve supported me
“I’ve also got to know up and coming riders who are amazing and inspire me as well.
“I wasn’t quite sure how it would go down because it’s the first of its kind - I don’t think any para athlete has made a membership club.
“I was a bit worried I thought I’d get two members but we’re up to nearly 200 now and it’s been going for a now in October.”
During each of the Paralympic Games, Christiansen has had a different horse and this time she hopes to be using Die Furstin, also known as Stella.
With one year until Tokyo, the Paralympic champion has retaining her titles in her sight, but she recognises that her focus has changed and it’s no longer all about victory.
“My mindset as an athlete is, I always want to do well, I’m an eight-time gold medallist and I feel like anything less than gold would be a disappointment,” Christiansen added, who was helping to promote Sainsbury’s as the longest-standing supporter of ParalympicsGB and a champion of inclusive sport for all.
“However, with my new young horse, the aim is to train her carefully and not to rush it.
“I think it’s actually a good thing for me to focus on her being quite young and focus on her training rather than the outcome of winning gold.
“I think it shows my growth as an athlete that it doesn’t have to be about winning.”
Sainsbury’s is the longest-standing supporter of ParalympicsGB and a champion of inclusive sport for all. Sainsbury’s commitment to helping customers live well for less has been at the heart of what we do since 1869. For more information on Sainsbury’s commitment to inclusive sport visit https://www.about.sainsburys.co.uk/