• Why is Tanni famous?

    Racing in a wheelchair
    Tanni Grey-Thompson is a famous 'Paralympian'. She was born with a medical condition that stopped her from walking and running. Being in a wheelchair did not stop Tanni becoming a champion in athletics.

    What is a Paralympian?
    A Paralympian is an athlete with a disability. Paralympians take part in the Paralympic Games and other sports events. Disability can mean a person has to use a wheelchair. It can mean a person has difficulty walking, seeing, hearing or learning. It does not mean they can't enjoy sport.

    What did she do?
    Tanni Grey-Thompson took part in four Paralympic Games. She won 11 gold medals. She won the London Marathon six times. After she retired from racing, she went on helping disabled sportspeople. Her story inspires many people to take part in sport.

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  • Tanni's childhood

    Why Tanni?
    Tanni was born on 26 July 1969 in Cardiff, Wales. Her full name was Carys Davina Grey. Her sister Sian gave her the name Tanni.

    Sian was 2 when she first saw baby Carys. Sian called the baby 'tanni', meaning 'tiny'. And Tanni she stayed.

    Why was walking a problem?
    Tanni was born with spina bifida. Spina bifida affects babies before they are born. Having it meant Tanni could not walk easily. She wore braces on her legs. When she was 7, she started to use a wheelchair.

    School sport
    Her parents soon saw that Tanni wanted to do things on her own. So did her teachers at school. Tanni found out for herself what she could do.

    She enjoyed sports. She liked archery, basketball, swimming and horse riding.

    The London Marathon
    Watching the London Marathon on TV made Tanni want to be an athlete.

    The London Marathon was first run in 1981. More than 7000 runners ran the 26-mile course. Today more than 35,000 people take part in the Marathon every year. Some are star runners. But most people run for fun to raise money for charity. Since 1983 wheelchair athletes take part too.

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  • Olympic athlete

    Wheelchair racer
    When she was 13, Tanni tried wheelchair racing. When she was 15, she raced for Wales in the Junior National Wheelchair Games. She won the 100-metre race.

    At 18, Tanni joined the Bridgend athletics club. It had a grass running track, not so easy for a wheelchair. But there were lots of paths to train on. In winter, she and her friends used a multi-storey car park, racing up and down the car ramps. This was rather dangerous!

    First Olympic Games
    In 1988, Tanni was chosen to race for Great Britain at the Paralympic Games. The Games were held in South Korea. It was a long way from Wales!

    It was Tanni's first Paralympics. She came home with a bronze medal. Being a disabled athlete brought many challenges. She felt 'you were on your own for most of it'.

    First gold medal
    After a year off for an operation, Tanni won 4 gold medals at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Barcelona is in Spain. She won the 100 metres, 200m, 400m and 800m races. Tanni was now Britain's most famous disabled athlete.

    Overcoming barriers
    Not everyone in sport welcomed disabled athletes. In 1994, at the Commonwealth Games in Canada, one official said athletes with a disability were 'an embarrassment'.

    Today, disabled athletes from many countries take part in the Paralympic Games. They do sports such as archery, athletics, basketball, cycling and tennis.

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  • Sports star

    Tanni set 30 world records! One of her records was being the first woman wheelchair athlete to race 400 metres in under 1 minute.

    In 1996, she took part in the Olympic Games at Atlanta (USA). She won 1 gold medal and 3 silver medals.

    In 2000, in Sydney (Australia), Tanni won 4 gold medals. In Athens (Greece) in 2004, she won 2 more gold medals.

    In 2002, Tanni carried the flag for Wales in the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games.

    Family life
    In 1999, Tanni married Dr Ian Thompson. They had a daughter, Carys, in 2002.

    Tanni said this about her sports career and being a mum: 'My gold medals in Sydney meant I was the best person in the world at the time in those events, whereas Carys is 24 hours a day for the next 60 years and being the best mother I can be.'

    Life after racing
    Tanni retired from racing in 2007. She spends a lot of time helping others to enjoy sport. She works with the Sports Council for Wales, and other groups.

    Tanni was voted BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year three times. In 2000, she came third in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

    Dame Tanni
    Tanni has many awards. In 2004, she became Dame Tanni, after the award of a DBE. In 2009, she was made a member of the Gorsedd at the National Eisteddfod. In 2010, she became a member of the House of Lords.

    Taking part
    Tanni says: 'we need more disabled people who are not so good at sport taking part'.

    Sport is not just about winning medals. It is about taking part, having fun, and keeping healthy.

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Tanni Grey-Thompson Game

Tanni Grey-Thompson

Take part in the A Question of Tanni game show.

Fun Facts
  • Wheelchair racers wear gloves. Why? Because their hands hit the chair's wheels very hard!

  • The first Winter Paralympics for snow and ice sports were in 1976.

  • Blind swimmer Trischa Zorn (USA) won a record 41 Olympic gold medals.

  • Tanni was 35 when she won her last Olympic gold medals.

  • Did you know blind people play football? The ball makes a noise so the players know where it is.

Other famous sports people

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Jump to: A-D | E-G | H-L | M-O | P-S | T-Z

A to D

A sport where you shoot at a target with a bow and arrow.
Running, jumping and throwing sports.
bronze medals
Prizes for coming third at the Olympic Games.
Commonwealth Games
Sporting event for Commonwealth countries, held every four years.
Raising money for good causes, such as helping disabled people.
Stands for Dame of the British Empire; an award given to special people.
Not able to do something that other people can, such as run, hear or see.

E to G

gold medals
Prizes for coming first at the Olympic Games.
Assembly of bards at the National Eisteddfod of Wales.

H to L

House of Lords
The second chamber of the UK Parliament. Members of the Lords play an important role in making laws.
London Marathon
A race run every year. A marathon race is 26 miles 385 yards!

M to O

National Eisteddfod
A festival of Welsh art and culture.
A person in charge of running something, like a sports event.
Olympic Games
The biggest sports event in the world, held every four years.
This is when hospital doctors use surgery to make someone better.

P to S

A disabled athlete taking part in the Paralympic Games.
Paralympic Games
Held alongside the Olympic Games, for disabled sportsmen and women.
spina bifida
An illness that affects babies before they are born, causing disability.

T to Z

To practise for a sport or to keep fit.