20 years ago Tanni Grey-Thompson won her 4th gold – & celebrated with a bowl of chips

Laureus Academy Member Tanni Grey-Thompson is Britain's greatest ever Paralympic athlete and a wonderful ambassador for Paralympic sport.
Exactly 20 years ago today, she celebrated one of the greatest moments of her career by winning a fourth Paralympic gold medal in Sydney in the T53 wheelchair 400 metres, adding it to the 100, 200 and 800 gold medals which she had won earlier.
It was a champagne success for British sport, but in an interview with, Tanni recalls a somewhat less exotic, but utterly heartwarming moment: “Our family celebration was in a local hotel and was actually a big bowl of chips!  Perhaps not the most glamorous, but they tasted really good.
Tanni Grey Thompson visits Israel Peace Players
“At the end of the Games I just remember being so tired. We would often race day in day out and there was a lot of pressure on me. I think the biggest emotion was relief that I had got to the end of the Games.
“When I finished I just wanted to go and see my family but you have media obligations, medal ceremony etc. I think it only sank in the next day that I had won four gold medals.”
Tanni with participants from the Laureus-supported IndiAbility Games, Rajasthan, India in 2010

Tanni had brilliantly repeated her four medal triumph from Barcelona in 1992, and by the time she retired after Athens in 2004, with a remarkable medal haul over 16 years and five Paralympic Games of 11 gold, 3 silver and a bronze, she was established as one of the most gifted and courageous sportswomen of her generation. 
Tanni had some weeks earlier been in Sydney for the Olympic Games where she competed in a demonstration race. She recalled: “It was the same night that Cathy Freeman won gold which was amazing. So it was great to be in Australia for a decent length of time. The Australians really embraced the Games and there was great crowd support.   
“The village was great and the new roads around the park were named after Australian athletes, One of my friends, Louise Sauvage, who lit the flame had a road named after her and we all thought that was quite exciting.  
“I remember that I was living in what was to become the garage of the new houses. The atmosphere was great and I remember there being a lot of British support over there. I was presented with a gold flag that someone had made for me which was really sweet.”
Born with spina bifida, Tanni, who began wheelchair racing at 13, says she was lucky to be competing in the age when the Paralympic Games became massive.
“Obviously that excites you and thrills you. I think it will get bigger and better than ever. It’s been an amazing transformation. Barcelona, I think, was the best Paralympic Games in terms of inclusion and the way the Games were organised. It was the first time we had major TV coverage around the Paralympic Games.
“I think my best medal was the 100 metres in Athens, my last Games, my weakest event.  I think everyone thought I was too old and should probably go home. But winning that 100 was, technically, one of the best races I've ever done. And my family was there and it was really nice to share that moment with my coaches and my team and everyone around me.
“1988 in Seoul was the first time that we had the Paralympics actually in the same city, same venues, but I remember coming back from there and somebody saying to me:
‘Isn't wheelchair racing really unfair?’
‘Why,’ I asked?
‘Oh, doesn't it depend how fast the person is who's pushing you.’
“That was '88 so there's been a huge transformation. London moved it on so much. You know, Rio was great. But we have a lot of expectation for the [re-arranged] Paralympics in Tokyo. I think Tokyo will move it on another step."
Tanni speaking to the press at the Laureus World Sports Awards 2020 in Berlin
Today, Tanni is heavily involved in the work Laureus Sport for Good supports around the world in her role as Vice Chair of the Laureus Academy. Over the past two decades, she has visited countless programmes who all use the power of sport to help young people overcome violence, discrimination and disadvantage.
“I can’t believe it’s 20 years since Nelson Mandela said ‘Sport has the power to change the world.’ And that still holds true. Laureus Sport for Good has moved on in so many positive ways. Early on it was about raising money and giving to projects. That's great, but that doesn't build long term really deep sustainability. It’s about how we can all support and educate and learn from each other.”
Tanni with Edwin Moses visiting the Laureus supported ‘PeacePlayers’ programme in Israel (2008)

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, many of the programmes Laureus supports around the world have had to adapt their ways of working, and Tanni is proud of their efforts.
“It's tough at the moment because a lot of the projects we're supporting are helping vulnerable young people, and those projects have had to change, in terms of what help and support they can give. But I've been really proud of the way the projects have stepped up and the way they are looking at how they can do things differently.
“We're told to wash our hands for 30 seconds, I don't know how many times a day. Access to clean water and to soap, things that we take for granted, are really difficult in some of the projects that I've been to. So it's really tough and I do worry.
“As Laureus Sport for Good, we have to do things in different way. We have to be creative. We have just be there and help and support to make sure that the projects and the young people come out of this in the best shape that they possibly can, because these projects ultimately save lives.
“Right now it’s in a different way, but ultimately by using sport and bringing young people together, it gives young people an opportunity and a chance to think differently about themselves, to think differently about the decisions they make and how they want to live their lives.”

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