Born in Cardiff on July 26, 1969, Baroness Carys Davina ‘Tanni’ Grey-Thompson was diagnosed with spina bifida – a medical condition that leads to defects in the spinal cord and vertebrae – shortly after birth and has been a wheelchair user since the age of seven. She owes her nickname to her elder sister Sian who, as a two-year-old, called her ‘Tiny’, which soon became ‘Tanni’; the moniker has been with her ever since.
Grey-Thompson was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for services to disabled sports in the New Year Honours List in 2005. She retired from competition, aged 37, in February, 2007, as the most successful disabled athlete in British history. All told, Grey-Thompson competed at five Paralympic Games between 1988 and 2004, winning 16 medals, including 11 gold medals. She also won 13 medals, including six gold medals, at the World Para Athletics Championships and the Women’s London Wheelchair Marathon six times between 1992 and 2002.
In over 16 years as a wheelchair racer, Grey-Thompson broke a total of 30 world records. At her second Paralympics, in Barcelona in 1992, she won gold medals in the 100 metres, 200 metres, 400 metres and 800 metres and a silver medal in the 4 x 100-metres relay. In so doing, she set world records in the 100 metres and 400 metres and, in the latter event, became the first woman in history to break the 60-second barrier.
A graduate of Loughborough University, Grey-Thompson was created a life peer in March, 2010, and conferred as Baroness Grey-Thompson of Eaglescliffe in the County of Durham. She swore the oath of allegiance to the Crown in English and Welsh before taking her seat in the House of Lords, where she sits as an independent crossbench, or non-party political, peer.