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Champion rider calls it quits on big stage.

TRIPLE Paralympic and World equestrian champion Nicola Tustain has stepped down from international competition.

The 31-year-old rider said she was making the "really hard decision" now for family reasons but would not rule out a possible return to top-flight sport.

Tustain, of Corwen, who has been at the top of her sport for 12 years, said: "The riding takes me away from home such a lot. We are a close family and they have to come first." She has won six Paralympic equestrian medals - three golds and three bronzes.

But her build-up for the 2008 Paralympics suffered a blow when her prize horse of four years Prinz Heinrich went lame at the start of the year.

Despite being born with a paralysis down the right side of her body, Tustain has also competed in able-bodied national championships.

She said: "I'll continue to be a member of British Dressage and compete locally as well as teach and mentor to keep my hand in, but a break will also enable me to try out other things.

"This has been a really hard decision. I've had so much support from my sponsors, trainers, family and friends and I'd like to thank everyone who has been involved with my successful career so far." Career highlights include three gold and three bronze medals from the 2000 and 2004 Paralympic Games, plus gold medals from each of the three World Championships since 1999.

Tustain is also an accomplished badminton player and was Welsh disabled champion 2006.

She is heavily involved in disability sport in Wales..

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Paralympian Nicola Tustain
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Apr 17, 2009
Words:264
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