Tanni Grey-Thompson is one of Britain’s greatest athletes and is a leading spokeswoman for sport. She married Ian Thompson in 1999 and their daughter, Carys, was born in 2002. She was given the title Baroness when she became a member of the House of Lords in 2010. She has been in a wheelchair since the age of seven.
Tanni was born in 1969, and her parents named her Carys Davina. However her older sister considered her small and called the new child tiny, which sounded like tanni, and thus Tanni was the name she carried with her through to adulthood and sporting fame.
Tanni Grey grew up with spina bifida, in a family that did not see her disability as a barrier to achievement. Her father, an architect, did not adapt the house to make it easier for the young Tanni to get around. She attended a mainstream school, when many others with her condition attended special schools which segregated them from other children their age.
Tanni’s achievements are legendery. She won her first Paralympic medal – a bronze – at the 1988 Seoul Olympics for the 400m. After Seoul she had spinal surgery which resulted in her taking a year out of sport, yet remarkably she achieved four gold medals at Barcelona in 1992 – two for relay events - the 100m and 400m, and two for individual events – the 200m and 800m. In total she won eleven Paralympic gold medals between 1992 and 2004. She won the women’s London Wheelchair Marathon six times and has broken thirty world records.
Tanni Grey graduated with a degree in Politics from Loughborough University in 1991. Since then she has gained 25 honorary degrees from universities including Bath, Exeter, Leicester, Loughborough and Wales. She became Pro Chancellor of Staffordshire University in 2004.
Since retiring from sport Tanni Grey-Thompson has remained an active voice for her profession. She has been a board member for the London Marathon and a director of UK Athletics. Her work in the House of Lords has included promoting sport, actively promoting the involvement of girls and women in sport and work on disability and welfare issues. She is a champion of physical literacy – learning good physical skills whilst young which will last a lifetime. She is an excellent motivational speaker, drawing on her own background and successes to illustrate what is possible in the face of adversity. If you would like to know more about Tanni Grey-Thompson try her autobiography, Seize the Day; this is a clear, accessible telling of her story.