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13 Questions: Former Paralympian, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson

Emma Emma | 10:33 UK time, Wednesday, 11 July 2012

In a wheelchair athletics career spanning 19 years from 1988 to 2007, the Welsh-born Tanni Grey-Thompson won 11 Paralympic gold medals for Great Britain and became a household name.

In March 2010, she was made a life peer in the House of Lords, a job which now takes up much of her time. She sits on the non-partisan crossbenches.

On Twitter, as Tanni_GT, the baroness chats freely with her thousands of followers and tweets regularly about all aspects of her busy life. Updates come live from the Lords during crucial votes, from trains where she has given frustrated reports of locked accessible loos, and we get a glimpse of her sometimes less-than-healthy pit-stop eating habits.

As well as working as a feature reporter across BBC TV and radio during the London 2012 Olympic Games, she will play a major part in Radio 5 live's coverage of the Paralympics this summer.

Lady Tanni Grey-Thompson of Eaglescliffe took time out from a stressful house move to answer our 13 probing questions.

My earliest memory is ...
Sitting on the sofa wearing a Welsh bobble hat and scarf, watching Wales play New Zealand at rugby. We had to wear our bobble hats, even when watching at home. My mum was telling me to shout "I hate Batty", who was a very successful player with the All Blacks at the time.

The three words I'd use to describe myself are ...
Stubborn, honest - which gets me into loads of trouble - and driven. When I set my mind to do something, I just keep going until it happens. I like to be in control of my destiny and to feel I'm making decisions about myself. I have got to where I am by being disciplined, working really hard in lots of different areas and making layers of lists.

A little known fact about me is ...
That I eat lots of cheese. I would eat cheese on toast every day, sometimes with tomatoes or brown sauce. Alternatively, I would happily buy a lump of Stilton, Brie or Danish Blue, and have it on its own.

I can't resist ...
Frazzles. Or Quavers. I often go for weeks and weeks without buying a packet of crisps but when I do, one is not really enough.

I want to ban ...
The people who park in blue badge spaces without a blue badge. They see me and suddenly start limping - that is not a fluctuating condition. I did leave a note on an offender's window once, who had conveniently brought their gran out and then left her in the car. It said: "your gran is for life, not just for shopping."

The thing I've done but would never do again is ...
A triathlon. They are really hard and I don't like swimming in a lake where people have peed in the water. We were told to drink a can of cola when we got out, to kill all the bugs.

Before I die I want to ...
See accessible toilets in every shop and restaurant. This can be achieved through having proper legislation to stop businesses getting away with being rubbish.

If I suddenly became able bodied I would ...
It doesn't form any part of what I think about in any day but I would probably go for a walk on a beach. I hate beaches. It is horrible digging sand out of your wheel bearings, getting mucky hands and falling out of your chair.

Someone should invent ...
A method of flying in a wheelchair, like the Daleks from recent episodes of Doctor Who. I don't want one of these chairs that climbs stairs at a metre a minute and takes three people to operate. I want to fly as fast as if I were running.

My ideal dinner guest would be ...
My husband. We don't get to spend much time together so it would be nice to have a meal where we are not rushing around or thinking of other things. Neither of us are good cooks, we eat to survive. Our daughter is a better chef than both of us.

My first job was ...
Working in the office of a contract cleaning company during university holidays. I had tried in vein to get some work but in the end, a mate of my dad offered me the job. It gave me the opportunity to interact with different people and it was nice to do something that wasn't sport.

Being a Baroness is ...
Exciting, weird, strange and I love it! You can change things. I have always wanted to work somewhere in politics, I'm not party political however, so it would have been difficult for me to become an MP.

For disabled people, I want the London 2012 legacy to be ...
Proper inclusion in sport. A disabled person should be able to go to their local club on a Saturday morning to play sport, not to a special club. I'm not just talking about competitive sport; disabled people need proper access to physical activity. At present, participation levels are low and all disabled people need to become healthier and healthier, so that they are able to work and live in a new world where the benefits system is going to be pretty harsh for them.

You can hear more from Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson on Radio 5 live and across the BBC from late July through to Early September during the Games. Or follow her on Twitter: @Tanni-GT.

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