On Thursday 22 March we held our annual Sports Dinner; a celebration of the outstanding sporting achievements of girls from Upper V – Upper VI. The evening recognises their commitment, passion and talent for their chosen sports not only within School but outside of School as well. The evening hosted 150 guests made up of staff, pupils and parents, who were firstly greeted with a drinks reception before sitting down for a delicious three-course meal prepared by The Abbey catering team, Holroyd Howe.
Following this, Director of Sport, Lara Wilkinson, introduced the room to this year’s guest speaker, Sophie Christiansen CBE. Sophie is a British dressage rider who has competed in four successive Paralympic Games and is currently an eight-time Paralympic champion. Born with Cerebral Palsy and having suffered from other health problems including jaundice, blood poisoning, a heart attack and a collapsed lung, Sophie told her inspirational story of how she overcame all the odds to master the most fiendish equestrian discipline of all. Not just an athlete, Sophie also graduated with a First Class Master’s degree in mathematics and now works at investment bank, Goldman Sachs alongside her riding.
Sophie spoke about the ups and downs of her sporting career and highlighted some her most challenging and memorable years in the field. In 2016, a change of coach and horse saw Sophie face some unexpected challenges in her build up to Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Sophie also shared a touching moment from the London Olympic Games in 2012, when in a silent arena, her brother and two cousins cried out ‘We love you, Sophie’, closely followed by the cheers from 10,000 people.
Throughout her speech, Sophie encouraged the girls to use her experiences as guidance in any hurdles they may face throughout their sporting careers. She spoke of the importance of balance and happiness - her balance of sport and work and how the combination allowed her to find happiness in both career paths. Sophie left us all believing that with a bit of tenacity and determination, we are able to achieve whatever we put our minds to.
After an extremely large round of applause, a short video montage was played, reflecting on another successful year of sport at The Abbey. The video affirmed the growth we have seen across a range of sports this year, as well as how we have maintained strength across hockey, netball and athletics. The audience were also treated to an entertaining clip of how some girls didn’t quite manage to master the ski lift on their recent ski trip to Austria.
In a fitting end to such a wonderful evening, the girls were presented with their colours and certificates for outstanding performance and commitment to sport. It was lovely to see so many girls recognised for such a range of sports. A collection of cups and trophies were also presented, including the Director of Sport Leadership Award for outstanding commitment and support to the Physical Education department, and The Sturrock Trophy for outstanding sporting achievement, this year won by Isabella Izqueirdo (Upper V).
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