Tanni Grey Thompson

Tanni Grey Thompson

Tanni Grey Thompson is one of the most successful Paralympic athletes that this country has ever produced and her achievements are celebrated in the new Our Greatest Team Legends Collection.

I caught up with her to talk about having a coin to commemorate her success as well as the London 2012 Parlympic Games.

- Can you tell me a little bit about the ‘Our Greatest Team’ Legends Collection and how you got involved?

Well I was approached a little while ago to see if I wanted my face on a medallion and it is quite exciting because I have never had anything quite like that before. So it was a little back and forth approving photographs and to make sure that they all fit in with each other.

So each medallion has got an iconic moment of us competing on, so for me it is my 100m in Athens, and then it has got an out of sport picture of our faces on and it is really nice.

So it starts with Steve (Redgrave) and then every week there is a different coin that will go on sale and I am number eleven and I think it’s the 18th July that that is released.

It’s great because there are some retired athletes such as Steve and Kelly Holmes and Mat Pinsent and then you have guys who will be competing at the 2012 Games such as Ben Ainslie, Rebecca Adlington and Chris Hoy - so it is a really nice combination of retired athletes and people that will be competing at the Games.

-All the profits raised from the sales of the medallions goes to the BOA (British Olympic Association) and the BPA (British Paralympics Association), what will this money help them do?

It’s about safeguarding the future of the teams really I suppose we were really lucky because we had pretty good support when we were competing and the level of support going into these Games is amazing.

It’s just about protecting that future really so that others have the same chance that we did because although it might feel like London 2012 is the end it’s a step on the conveyor belt of the Olympics and the Paralympics so we have got Winter Games and then Rio in 2016.

One of the amazing things about these Games is there is probably… I don’t think the elite side of the squad has changed an awful lot but those who are fifteen or sixteen and on the edge of competing have just had so much focus on 2012 as it has just been everywhere.

So the talent pool that we have for these Games and 2016 is just amazing and so it’s just about keeping that going really because we want to see the teams do well.

- The London Games are now just around the corner who how would you sum up your Paralympic experience when you look back on it now?

I did five Games but I had a great time, it is a really hard question. I had ups and downs in my career like everyone does. It’s such a privilege competing for GB because ultimately so few people out of everyone who tries actually get to do it.

It’s just an amazing experience being there, being with the team, travelling and winning medals because I don’t think there is another country in the world that gets the support that we do and we are really well supported wherever we go so that is always nice to have.

- And did you have a favourite Games?

They were all great but probably Sydney I think. Sydney really was all about the athletes from the accommodation to the transport.

I went to five Games and I sat on the athletes committee and so I have seen the good the bad and everything in between and what we want to do was take all of the best from all of the Games and put it into London.

We have tried to really think about athletes in everything that we do and I think that it is just going to be brilliant.

- And while you won’t be competing in London how excited are you at the prospect of the London Paralympic Games?

I think my family have made me promise not to talk about the Olympics and the Paralympics until it is finished but it is amazing.

I was part of the bid really early on and a city in Games time is so different from a city at any other time; I have been to six in total because I worked during Beijing. It is just an amazing atmosphere.

Lots of kids will want to do sport after the Games and some will stay while some won’t but the biggest thing is we will show the world how good we are at organising things. But also we are going to the world what a great place London is.

- Great Britain finished second on the medal table in Beijing four years ago so what are you hopes for the team this time around?

Oohhh I think top three. There definitely is an advantage being an athlete performing on home soil but you can’t underestimate how much other nations will want to beat you on home soil.

- We have already seen the likes of David Weir and Shelly Woods win at London marathon so what are you expecting those two to deliver at the Games as they are possible two of the more high profile athletes in the team?

I am usually the kiss of death if I say that they are going to do well (laughs). Dave and Shelly are both in the best shapes of their lives actually; you saw Dave in the London Marathon and there was no one there who could touch him.

Shelley found a huge amount of confidence in the last year and she raced to her race plan and didn’t let anyone else dictate the pace - London was the best race that I have ever seen her do and I have seen her race a lot.

It’s tough they should medal but… sorry I am hedging my bets here because there are certain guys in the world who want to beat Dave and will do anything they can together to get him.

It’s not quite the same with Shelley but there is a lot of competition out there - I would expect them both to medal and they both could win gold.

- China topped the medal table last time around but they did have the advantage of home support so do you expect the major medal challenge to come from them?

Yes I think realistically just because of the size of their team. But also Brazil, not in every sport, but certainly in swimming and athletics, the two bigger sports, they will be strong.

It will be interesting to see what they do because they are doing a lot of development at the moment ahead of their Games.

The USA can be a little up and down but they have a big team and again they are big in athletics and swimming but that is where the most medals come from so that is what people concentrate on.

I think where we are good in GB we concentrate on every sport so we do well in equestrian and we have a pretty strong volleyball team. So I think where we do well is we go across the board.

- What do you hope that the London Games will go for Paralympic Games in this country?

I think it is partly raising the profile of the athletes, you go around London and you see Shelley on billboards around the city and that is amazing.

I think that fact we have the organising committee and the sponsors have worked with us across both Games it will just be raising the profile. It will be when the Paralympic athletes are part of the background really that will be one of the best things that we do.

So it’s getting the athletes known and getting the public behind us. But so many tickets have been sold for the Paralympics and that is amazing.

- Well you have touched on my next question really both the Olympic and Parlympic tickets have been hugely popular since they went on sale so as an athlete you must be delighted to see that sort of demand?

I have to events as a young athlete where you could name the crowd, literally you knew the people there, and each Games has got better developed and there has been so much more interest and I think nearly 1.2 million tickets have been sold for the Paralympic Games.

For the athletes competing it is so important for people to come and watch because it is so much better in front of an audience and the fact that so many British people want to come and cheer out athletes is amazing. And it gives them the chance to give their best performance and that is what we want. 

- And the Paralympic Games will be a source of great inspiration for kids up and down the country so what advice would you give to those who do want to get involved with a sport?

Find something that you like doing because you are going to spend a whole lot of time doing it (laughs). There’s a huge amount of training, natural talent does take you a long way but training takes you further.

And have fun - even when I was training for the Paralympics and training fifteen times a week we still enjoyed it. Of course you had days where you are like ‘do I have to?’ But once you get through the front door it’s ok but you weren’t always bouncing through the door shouting ‘yeah I am going to training’.

So just enjoy it because your career doesn’t last that long in the grand scheme of things and you have to make the most of it and every chance that you get because you can’t go and do it again. Enjoy it and train hard.

- Finally what’s next for you?

I am doing lots of different bits (laughs). I am working for TV and radio for the Games and then I am working with some of the sponsors. I will also be showing some kids around as there is a programme for young athletes.

And hopefully I will be able to sit in the stands and watch something because as an athlete you see absolutely nothing because you are concentrating on what you are doing. I have got a daughter who is ten and she went to Athens and Beijing and she is really excited about the Games and we have tickets for Wrestling and we just want to enjoy it.

There will also be screens around so we are going to take a picnic and have a good laugh because it is going to be brilliant. People are just happy and cheerful and it is my idea of bliss because people just talk to you and I will talk to anybody and I think all that stuff will be brilliant.

"Paralympian, Tanni Grey Thompson, is one of 12 British Olympic and Paralympic Legends featured in Our Greatest Team Legends Collection, a series of collectable medallions created to support Team GB and ParalympicsGB available exclusively from BP forecourts now. www.bp.com/medallions"

FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw

by for www.femalefirst.co.uk
find me on and follow me on