Paralympic dressage rider Natasha Baker admits she “never imagined” that she would win the Sports Personality of the Year Award at the European Diversity Awards in London last week (29 November).

“It was a shock to be nominated, let alone win it,” she told H&H.

Natasha learnt she was on the shortlist the day she arrived at the Tryon World Equestrian Games (WEG) in September. The organisers invited Natasha to the ceremony at the Natural History Museum and suggested she prepare a one-minute speech in case she won.

Also up for the award were:

  • long-distance athlete Sir Mo Farah
  • professional boxer Nicola Adams
  • sports presenter Jacqui Oatley
  • Paralympic wheelchair racer Anne Wafula Strike
  • Italian Paralympic runner Martin Caironi

“I said to my mum there’s no point preparing a speech as I have no chance of winning,” admitted Natasha.

The sports personality category was one of the last of the 14 awards to be presented on the night.

“When I found out I wasn’t highly commended I relaxed because I didn’t think it could be me. But when the presenter started talking about the winner saying it was a female who’d followed her dreams from a young age and won five Paralympic gold medals the penny dropped,” said Natasha.

Suddenly she was up on the podium having to make up a speech in front of 350 other guests.

“Luckily I am good at improvising!” she said.

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The award was the culmination of “an incredible year” for the British para dressage star, who won two silver medals at WEG, became overall champion at the Para Gold Semi Finals in June and won on all three days at Hartpury International in July.

The trophy is now in pride of place in her Uxbridge kitchen.

“I still can’t quite believe it,” she said, “it was so unexpected.”

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