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Last Updated: Friday, 11 May 2007, 11:39 GMT 12:39 UK
Tanni ready to star
Paralympic legend Tanni Grey-Thompson will compete in her final race on Sunday.

The 37-year-old has enjoyed a glittering career including winning 11 Paralympic gold medals and six London Marathon titles and will finish her career by racing over 200m at the Visa Paralympic World Cup in Manchester.

Here she tells BBC Sport how she is feeling ahead of her last race.

There will be live coverage from the Paralympic World Cup on Sunday 13 May on BBC Two from 1545-1745 BST.

It was a huge weight off my mind in February when I made the announcement that I would race for the final time at the Paralympic World Cup.

I had a lot of doubts throughout last year about my future but I had to be sure I picked the right time to announce my retirement but once I did it, I felt free and I have absolutely no regrets and no desire to change my mind.

Personally, I just didn't want to train to that level any more and it was getting more and more difficult to train with other demands on my time.

Since I made the announcement, it has been hard to maintain my training but telling people has certainly helped with the transition.

It was important for me to choose the time I retired because I didn't want the decision to be forced on me as a result of injuries or something else.

As you get older you have to train differently and that has an impact on your body. I now have tennis elbow on one side of my body and golfers elbow on the other.

As the race gets closer, I sometimes wish I had picked one nearer to the end of the year.

From the years of pushing, my shoulders aren't great but I didn't want anything bad to happen to them or indeed for my body to break down completely.

At the moment I get niggles and my elbows are sore constantly but I didn't want that to develop into something worse.

Having my last race on home soil was very important to me. I wanted to have my friends and family around me and the Paralympic World Cup is a big event. It wouldn't have been the same abroad.

Although things have been hectic over the last few weeks, I haven't altered my training too much for Sunday but it has been tough to get enough miles in

However, as the race gets closer, I do sometimes wish I had picked a race nearer to the end of the year. Although I've had a couple of road races, I've only had one track meeting.

I raced at Stoke Mandeville two weeks ago where I did my last 100 and 400m races and I was relieved afterwards and also pleased that I would never have to race over those distances again.

I'm in relatively good shape and I will approach this race in the same way as any others. I'll be sick beforehand, like I always am, and I'll be going all out for victory.

I e-mailed all the girls I will be racing against to tell them I was retiring so to them it is probably a big motivation for them to beat me in my last race

But I know that the whole experience will be different to anything I have ever done before. I have trained for Paralympics and World Championships and I know what to expect but with this I don't know.

Tanni Grey-Thompson in action
Tanni won two golds at the Athens Paralympics in 2004

I think it is going to be an emotional occasion but I'm hoping I can keep it together for my race and not let it get the better of me until it's all finished.

I've spoken a lot to other retired athletes and it's been really useful getting their feedback on the experience.

Pretty much everyone has told me to go and talk to a sports psychologist because it's a big part of my life that's finishing.

When I started, there was very little media coverage and much of what there was was patronising, there was no Lottery funding, nobody came to watch and the changes from 1996 until now have made it far more professional.

It's been exciting to track the changes over the years and it has been fun being part of I but after Sunday I will be looking forward to sitting in the stands eating ice-cream and watching it all unfold.


Would you encourage your daughter to pursue a career as a professional sportswoman?
Jenny O'Hehir, Ireland

If it was what she wanted to do, then I would help and encourage her in whatever way I could, but that is different to pushing her to do sport.

I would love her to be physically active and healthy and would strongly encourage her to do that but I don't think you can make anyone become an elite athlete - they have to want to do it themselves.

Equally, if she wanted to be a hairdresser or an accountant, I would support her in that.

In your career what kept you going in competing and to keep going with your career? And who were your idols when you were younger?
Henrietta Freeman, United Kingdom

What has kept me going is a combination of things - wanting to be the best I can, wanting to beat my husband Ian and wanting to change the system to help kids coming through behind me.

Former Welsh rugby star Gareth Edwards and former London Marathon winner Chris Hallam were the people I admired when I was younger.

Of all the cities you have competed in, which is your favourite?
Jasmine Crouch, London

Definitely Barcelona, where the 1992 Paralympics were held, because the stadium and surrounding area was stunning and being able to look over the city made it special. There was a great atmosphere in the stadium with full houses every night - plus I enjoyed plenty of success there.

Which of your Paralympic golds do you rank highest?
Emily P, Manchester.

After the disappointment of losing the 800m in Athens in 2004 and how badly I performed in that race, winning the 100m was very special. There was a lot of pressure on me and it was horrible waiting for the race but there was so much relief after it finished.

What do you think is your biggest achievement on or off track?
Geraldine Jackson, Sheffield

Being a mother is much harder than anything else I have ever done. It has made me much stronger, nicer and more tolerant.

In athletics if you train hard and are naturally talented you have a good chance of winning but with kids you don't know what they are going to do next and that is part of the fun.

If you could go to watch any sporting event anywhere in the world, what would it be?
James Smith, Liverpool

Probably the Tour de France - preferably all of it - but especially the mountain stages. I'm a huge cycling fan because Ian was a cyclist. We are planning to come down to London to watch the opening stages of this year's race.

I also like track cycling and I admire people like Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton.

Steve Cram column
10 May 07 |  Disability Sport
Grey Thompson confirms retirement
28 Feb 07 |  Disability Sport
Grey Thompson's career in photos
28 Feb 07 |  Other Sport...


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