'It was heartbreaking': Paralympian forced to pull out of Games

  • Video report by ITV News Meridian's Mike Pearse

Today was the day Sophie Christiansen had spent the last five years working tirelessly for.

But instead of being on a plane from Heathrow tonight, her trip to compete in the Tokyo Paralympics was called off at the last minute.

She had to make a tough last minute decision to withdraw from the event, which starts next week. It's because her horse Louis developed a minor problem that was likely to affect the pairs performance.

It's left the 33 year old equestrian rider from Farnborough heartbroken.

  • WATCH: Sophie Christiansen's full interview with Mike Pearse

She says: "It was heartbreaking to be honest. I work so hard as does every athlete but particularly as one of the most disabled athletes on the team. It costs me a hell of a lot more than an able bodied athletes".

Sophie was born with cerebral palsy and has devoted her life to being world leading in her sport. She's previously won 8 gold medals and excels at dressage.

She's also been talking about the mental health issues many top disabled sports people face. While she says things have improved it's not always easy. 

Sophie beams with pride as she holds a gold medal she won at the Games in London in 2012.

She says: "I was seriously thinking about retiring after Rio. I was in a really toxic training place and I didn't have the support of talking to the people i needed".

But it's not only Sophie impacted by the latest setback. 

Her trainer, Anna Miller, from Hindhead and support team have also been left disappointed by not going to Tokyo. 

  • Anna Miller, Trainer

She said: "It is totally gutting to have fallen at the very last hurdle. We had been selected, given that seal of approval and were in quarantine".

There are other pressures too. The cost of training and, for her sport, finding and buying horses which she says she will need for the next Paralympics.

But for now, Sophie and her team are turning all eyes and preparations for Paris in three years time, where she'll be hoping to once again bring a gold medal home for Great Britain.