Tanni Grey-Thompson, OBE
Public Orator, Professor Stuart Biddle, presented the Honorary Graduand at the Degree Congregation held on the afternoon of Monday 17 December 2001
Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Distinguished
Guests, Graduates, Ladies and Gentlemen
Many people misconstrue the nature
of sport. Often people believe that successful sports performers simply
have natural ability while others dont. While there may be some
truth to this, no athlete will make it very far without a huge amount
of effort, training and dedication. Another myth is that elite athletes
are more focused on winning than performing well. In a recent autobiography,
an elite British athlete said medals are important to me but I am
a perfectionist and judge myself by how well I have performed as much
as by where I have finished. That self-confessed perfectionist is
Tanni Grey-Thompson. She has reached the pinnacle of sport through talent,
dedication to training, and by focusing on winning and seeking ways to
achieve excellence in her own personal performance. This epitomises a
true high achiever.
Tanni Grey was born in Cardiff in 1969
and made her first international athletics appearance 18 years later.
Born with spina bifida, walking in the early days became progressively
more difficult and so she used a wheelchair more. Despite the prejudices
and access problems in education and elsewhere in life, Tanni became interested
in many sports. Her love for athletics seemed to grow naturally out of
this and was helped by the emergence of wheelchair athletics as a increasingly
higher profile sport, mainly through coverage of the London marathon from
the early 1980s. The rest, as they say, is history. One year after her
first international appearance, Tanni won a bronze medal at the Paralympics
in Seoul in 1988 in the 400m. This was followed by two silvers and a bronze
at the World Championships in 1990 and gold medals in the 100m, 200m,
and marathon in the World Wheelchair Games in 1991, the same year she
graduated with a honours degree in Politics and Social Administration
from Loughborough. Other notable achievements included her first world
record, over 200m, in 1992 and, in the same year, was the first British
woman to go under 2 hours for the marathon. Indeed, 1992 was a very good
year: 4 world records at a meeting in Canada; 4 gold medals at the Barcelona
Paralympics; Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year.
Tannis public exposure is often
greatest through the television coverage of the London marathon
an event she has won four times. However, this hides an extraordinary
list of achievements on the track and road. Thankfully, the paralympics
have gained in recognition and Tanni is now receiving the wider coverage
and acknowledgement she deserves. She won 4 gold medals at the World Championships
in 1994, and 3 silvers and a gold at the Atlanta Paralympics in 1996.
She even improved on this 4 years later and won 4 golds at the Sydney
games, the same year she was awarded the OBE for services for sport, and
was 3rd in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award.
Alongside this impressive list of sporting
achievement Tanni has been active in the administration, management and
politics of sport. She has been the Chair of the Wheelchair Racing Association,
and Disability Development Officer for British Athletics. In addition,
Tanni has lobbied and promoted many issues and causes associated with
disability sport and disability in general, resulting in a much higher
profile for sports for people with disabilities, and improved access and
understanding of the people and sports involved.
Loughborough University has an unrivalled
reputation in sport. It has been associated with, and in some cases produced,
Olympic gold medallists and world record holders and world leaders in
performance, coaching, and managerial leadership in sport. We believe
in sport in the fullest sense, hence our moto for Loughborough Sport
Developing People, Developing Sport. Today, we are honouring an outstanding
person in the field of sport who not only developed herself but also developed
British sport, and in particular disability sport, to truly great heights.
Hence, she represents the best in achievement.
Mr Chancellor, in recognition of her inspirational role as an outstanding Olympian, I have the honour to present to you, and to the whole University, TANNI GREY-THOMPSON, OBE, for the degree of Doctor of Technology, honoris causa.
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