I finally met Tanni Grey-Thompson.
Yes, The Right Honourable Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson.
And I even shook her hand.
But this was last year, well before this Coronavirus madness where you can’t be within 2 meters, or 6 feet of anyone NOT living in your household.
Last year, Tanni Grey-Thompson was keynote speaker at a Technology event. She gave a wonderful talk that was well over an hour, that sadly was not recorded. When I wasn’t selected to ask my questions during Q&A period, I quickly rushed to the front stage afterwards and spent over 10 minutes talking Track & Field, or Athletics as we call it here in the UK.
For those who don’t know her story, Tanni first competed in the Seoul 1988 Paralympics (400m wheelchair, bronze medal) then exploded with multiple golds in ’92, ’96, ’00, and ’04. Five Olympic Games.
She also completed the London Marathon after retiring… not bad for a sprinter! As you know, anything over 400m, I take a taxi.
I totally forgot to record our conversation using my phone, but I asked her several key questions (at least what I can remember):
1) What was key difference from her single bronze in 1988 to 4 golds in 1992?
She took training more seriously, and to some extent, watched her nutrition. She does have a tendency to throw up, so food intake and timing management was key. Basically, she “upped her game”. Take home message: part-time athletes gets part-time results!
2) Did her first Olympic experience help the next? i.e. Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Caitlyn Jenner (born Bruce Jenner), Daly Thompson, Steve Ovett, etc. all had an Olympic experience before they won gold.
Surprisingly, the answer was no. She was always nervous before every Olympic event. Similarly, she gets nervous no matter if it’s a low key meet, or Olympic final, which I think it the right mindset. You have to be hungry. Every time you step on the track, you have to give a hoot about every race. Even if it’s the heats with 4 people and 3 people advance to the next round.
3) Do you miss competing at a high level?
Like me, she doesn’t miss the long hard training sessions, but she did admit she missed her teammates, the camaraderie, and the banter :)
She did “move on” in life, and since 2010, Tanni is Member of the House of Lords in Great Britain, for both England and Wales, and sits as a crossbencher.
Tanni is such an inspiration.