Author(s): Tony Smith
Born in Christchurch, Sophie grew up on a lifestyle block near Halswell. At age two she was involved in an accident with a ride-on mower which resulted in her left leg being amputated below the knee and her right leg being severely scarred. She says of the accident: ''Although our lives changed in that nanosecond, to this day I believe it is the best thing that ever happened to me.'' Sophie began swimming at age 7 and has never looked back. When she competed in the 2008 Paralympics she was not only our youngest Paralalympian but, at age 15, the youngest ever New Zealander to win a medal. In Beijing she won three gold medals (100m breaststroke, 200m individual medley, 100m backstroke) and a silver medal (100m butterfly). Following her astounding performance in Beijing, Sophie was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2009 New Year's Honours, for her services to swimming. In February 2012, she became the inaugural winner of the Disabled Sportsperson of the Year award at the 2011 Halberg awards. Sophie continued her successes at the 2012 Summer Paralympics, where she competed in six events. She successfully defended her 200m individual medley gold medal, breaking her own world record by four seconds. She also won gold medals in the 100m butterfly (where she bettered her silver at Beijing and in the process set a new world record) and in the 100m freestyle, setting a new Paralympic record. She won silver medals in the 50m freestyle, 100m backstroke and 100m breaststroke.
Tony Smith works for The Christchurch Press and is one of New Zealand's most respected sports writers. He has won several awards throughout his distinguished career, including the prestigious NZ Sports Journalist of the Year award. He penned New Zealand football captain Ryan Nelsen's 2010 book, Ryan Nelsen's Road to the World Cup.