Christiansen is first triple gold medalist of the games
8:44pm Tuesday 4th September 2012 in London Olympics 2012 - Latest News
Sophie Christiansen became the London 2012's first British triple gold medallist today as Great Britain's dressage riders ended their Paralympic Games in record-breaking fashion.
Christiansen posted her third successive score of more than 80% on Janeiro 6 to claim Grade Ia freestyle gold.
And it meant Britain ended six glorious days in Greenwich with a record 11 medals - five gold, five silver and one bronze - to eclipse their Beijing-best of four years ago.
As with the Olympic equestrian team last month, Britain's Paralympians topped their medal table, and it represented a stunning effort by the five-strong group of Christiansen, double gold medallist Natasha Baker, Lee Pearson, Sophie Wells and Deb Criddle.
They also won a medal in all sections across five grades - individual and freestyle - in addition to collecting a fifth successive Paralympic team title, a sequence that started at Atlanta 16 years ago.
But 24-year-old Christiansen, who has cerebral palsy, played the starring role by dominating her rivals to such an extent that gold medal glory was never seriously in doubt once she had completed her freestyle test.
Her patriotic musical theme - which started and ended with Land of Hope and Glory, included Big Ben's chimes and quotations from Shakespeare's Richard II - provided a fitting conclusion to the dressage programme as she scored a mammoth 84.750%.
"I was always going to enjoy that, and that was key," she said.
"Sometimes I get a bit carried away because I do love it so much, so I kind of played it a little safer today to stay relaxed and keep the horse's rhythm going, and it paid off.
"I did everything I could going into the Games. I've had a great time.
"I knew I could potentially win three gold medals, but I wanted to keep that quiet and then let the results speak for themselves."
The crowd chanted "we love you Sophie" as she left the arena which, perhaps above anything else, highlighted her new golden girl status.
Land of Hope and Glory and Big Ben's chimes evoked memories of British Olympic gold medallist Charlotte Dujardin's freestyle routine in same arena a month ago.
"I listened to Charlotte's music, and I thought 'oh no, people will think I've nicked it from her!'" Christiansen added.
Her medal feat was even compared with that of cyclist Sir Chris Hoy, Britain's most successful Olympian.
But she said: "I am not sure I have got legs big enough to be compared with Chris Hoy! But this is all amazing - beyond my wildest dreams - and I certainly don't mind being compared to Chris Hoy.
"It hasn't sunk in yet, and I was just so proud to be up there with my team-mates on the podium."
Christiansen won a bronze medal as a 16-year-old in Athens eight years ago, then captured two golds and a silver in Beijing. She is also a reigning world and European champion.
In addition to her brilliant riding skills, Christiansen has a masters degree in mathematics from Royal Holloway University and currently works part-time as a statistician.
Pearson, meanwhile, reflected on the staggering medal haul, and said: "I did think 11 medals was possible, but I also knew the level of the game-play was increasing more and more.
"It has just been surreal that we have managed to be so successful at our home Games, winning a medal in every phase of every grade."
And Criddle, who made her Paralympics debut in Sydney 12 years ago, added: "This has been the best Games I've ever done.
"I am so honoured to have been here - words cannot describe the feeling. We will never forget these Games.
"And to have medalled across all five grades with our five riders is fantastic. It's such a good feeling."
Wells today produced a personal best score of 81.150% on Pinocchio in the Grade IV freestyle.
It was not enough for the title, though, as Belgium's Michele George and Rainman eclipsed them with her own personal best 82.100%.
And it was Criddle who delivered the record-equalling 10th medal, finishing second behind Germany's double gold medallist Hannelore Brenner, who triumphed on Women of the World after scoring 81.700%.
Taunton-based Criddle, though, was 3% behind with LJT Akilles, and Denmark's Annika Dalskov took bronze. It was 46-year-old Criddle's second runner-up finish in two days, adding to her team gold.
Wells, 22, had been fired up to avenge her defeat on Sunday, but it was not to be as George - 15 years her senior - did just enough for double gold.
"I had to take some risks today to have a chance of beating Michele," said Wells, who is from Newark in Nottinghamshire.
"Some of the risks paid off, some of them maybe didn't, but I am absolutely thrilled with my horse. He has coped like a star with the atmosphere.
"You win some, you lose some. You have got to come back fighting, and I loved it in that arena. It has been an absolute dream to compete here.
"I had a small mistake in one of the tempo changes, which affected my last halt, but I have come here and got three personal bests with my three rides.
Wells, the reigning world and European champion who has competed successfully in non-disabled competitions, now hopes to compete Pinocchio at grand prix level next year.
"There is life after London, and we are next on to Rio in four years' time, although I don't know how we will quite be able to top London," she added.
"I suppose I am slightly disappointed because we did come here for gold, but to come away with two silvers and a gold and make a big contribution to the team medal is amazing."