Sophie Wells MBE may have won three Paralympic gold medals, but she wants to be remembered for changing people’s perception of disability.
Sophie is the latest special guest on H&C’s second series of Rudall Rides With… where she talks frankly about her disability.
“I want people to see it’s not about disability it’s about ability,’ Sophie told Rhi Lee-Jones, who was standing in for presenter Jenny Rudall.
Growing up Sophie admits she wasn’t aware of her disability, and says her parents expected her to “just get on with it”. It wasn’t until she started school the 26-year-old realised she was different to other kids in class. Since then Sophie has been on a one-woman mission to “open doors” for people with disabilities.
“I wanted to prove I could compete in able-bodied dressage,” she says. “My first international was at the Young Rider Europeans and everyone around the warm-up was staring at my reins [which have been adapted for Sophie to hold].
“That ignorance made me want to change things – people shouldn’t be looking at my reins or my disability. But by the next year people realised I was there to do the same job as them.”
It’s this steely determination that saw her pick herself up after London 2012, and go on to win individual gold in Rio. While Sophie scooped team gold and two individual silvers at the London Games, it was individual gold she really wanted.
“I felt like I’d failed and let everyone down,” Sophie told Rhi. “I had to do a lot of soul searching after that, and needed to change the way I was thinking.”