She’s is one of the most accomplished athletes in the world.
Just count them…
- 16 medals (11 gold, 4 silver and 1 bronze),
- 6 London Marathons wins (between 1992 and 2002), and
- 30 world records.
Tanni Grey-Thompson is Great Britain’s proudest Paralympian Wheelchair Racer and an international sensation.
On July 26th, 1969, Tanni Grey-Thompson was born with a spinal condition called spina bifida where the spinal bones don’t close together.
But don’t let that fool you…
At age seven she received her first wheelchair. Just 6 years later she competed in her first race, and in 1984 she won a bronze medal at the Junior National Wheelchair Games.
But that was just the beginning…
Tanni went on to compete and dominate wheelchair racing:
- 1988 Seoul – 1 Bronze medal 400m
- 1992 Barcelona – 4 Gold medals in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m
- 1996 Atlanta – 1 Gold medal in the 800m. 3 Silver medals in the 100m, 200m, and 400m
- 2000 Sydney – 4 Gold medals in the 100m, 200m, 400m, and 800m
- 2004 Athens – 2 Gold medals in the 100m, and 400m
All in all, she set 30 world records.
Oh, and did I mention she also won the Women’s London Wheelchair Marathon SIX times!
In this interview, Tanni Grey-Thompson discusses her wheelchair racing, biggest challenges, proudest moment, and advice for Trekity’s readers…
Interview: Tanni Grey-Thompson
What made you decide to compete in wheelchair racing?
I had tried a few sports, swimming and basketball, but when I tried a racing wheelchair for the first time I just knew that was the sport I wanted to follow.
Despite your parent’s undeniable support, what challenges did you face as a Paralympian?
Probably the same challenges as any athlete, I worried whenever I travelled abroad that my racing chair would arrive in one piece (it didn’t always happen)!
Finding places to train on the roads used to be interesting, so some of my early training was done in a multi-storey car park as it was quiet on a night and you could get up to a decent speed.
Who was your greatest inspiration?
A wheelchair racer called Chris Hallam. He was a bit of a “bad boy” of the sport, and wore leopard print racing suits and had long flowing blond hair.
I watched Chris win the London Marathon and was inspired.
What was your proudest athletic moment? And life moment?
Winning the 100 metres in the Athens paralympics.
I had a nightmare in my first race and a lot of people were writing me off, a has-been, that sort of comment, so to come back in my next race and win was very sweet.
What advice would you give athletes today?
Find a sport that you love, then it’s a bit easier to stick to your training regime.
It isn’t easy to be an elite athlete, there are a lot of sacrifices to be made, and a lot of training, in all weathers, so you must be dedicated and have a goal to aim for.
You’ve traveled all around the world to compete, speak and educate. What is your favorite country and why?
I really like Switzerland. The spectators are really knowledgeable, their tracks are very fast, and it’s a lovely country, I’ve been there many times.
What projects are you currently working on?
The Government’s welfare reforms are currently taking up a lot of my time, I think we really need to make sure that the systems being introduced are fair.
Is there any other advice or inspiration you’d like to share with our readers?
“Aim high even if you hit a cabbage”. That’s a saying from my grandfather, and means having a goal and trying to reach it. Even if you don’t reach your goals in life, you gain so much from trying.
In addition to being an inspirational athlete, Tanni’s also a proud wife and mother. In 1999 Tanni Grey married Ian Thompson and 2002 she gave birth to a beautiful daughter, Carys.
She currently is a Board Member of the London Marathon, Member of Transport for London, Member of the Surface Transport and Safety, Health and Environment Assurance Panels and is a People’s Peer for the House of Lords.
Thank you Tanni for participating in this interview and being such an inspiration to women and athletes around the world.
Featured image by Terry Wha (Flickr).