When I wrote Olympic Flames, my London 2012 inspired novella, earlier this year, I had never heard of Charlotte Dujardin.
Charlotte is the prodigiously talented young dressage rider who along with team mates Carl Hester and Laura Bechtolsheimer scooped the Olympic gold medal this week. It's the first time Britain has won the team dressage event since it became an Olympic sport 100 years ago.
Today everyone’s keeping their fingers tightly crossed that Charlotte clinches a second Olympic gold by winning the individual dressage competition.
But one of the most inspiring things about 27 year old Charlotte is that she worked her way up from stable hand to Olympic champion in just five years. Unlike many other equestrian stars, she doesn’t come from a privileged background and her family had to scrimp and save to help her make it. A keen rider, she left her comprehensive school at 16 and at 20 began working as a stable girl for her now team mate Carl Hester. He spotted her talent immediately and let her ride his new horse Valegro – the horse that has taken her to Olympic glory.
It’s a fantastic story - and testament to Charlotte’s talent and determination. But I was extra-thrilled because when I came up with the idea for Olympic Flames I was adamant that my heroine wasn’t going to be someone born with a silver spoon in her mouth. Unlike Charlotte, the star of my book, Mimi Carter, is a show jumper, not a dressage rider. But like Charlotte, she doesn’t come from a wealthy background. Mimi left school at 16, got a job as a stable girl and eventually won a place in the British show jumping team.
As I became immersed in my story I wasn’t sure how feasible Mimi’s rise from humble stable girl to Olympic star would be.
Now, having seen Charlotte Dujardin in action at Greenwich Park this week, I know that it is really is. Go Charlotte!