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Last Updated: Sunday, 13 May 2007, 16:29 GMT 17:29 UK
Tanni's last lap
Tanni Grey-Thompson has won 16 Paralympic medals including 11 gold
Tanni Grey-Thompson has won 11 Paralympic gold medals
With silver in the 200m at the 2007 Paralympic World Cup in Manchester, Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson brought down the curtain on a glittering career.

The Welshwoman, 37, is Britain's most successful Paralympian but Sunday saw her final competitive race.

Grey-Thompson won 16 Paralympic medals including 11 golds as a T53 wheelchair racer, plus six London Marathons.

"I can't stop smiling now, but it's been a really emotional day and I've spent a lot of it crying," she said.

Jessica Galli spoiled a perfect send-off by beating Grey-Thompson to the finish line by 0.21 seconds, setting a new championship record of 34.40.

But after all Grey-Thompson's achievements in sport, the result scarcely mattered on a rain-soaked afternoon in Manchester.

"I never have to do a sprint start again and I'm really, really happy to finally call it a day," Grey-Thompson added.

"The crowd support was great but afterwards when I saw my sister and Ian, my husband, all the emotion came flooding out."

606: DEBATE

Lord Coe, who won two Olympic golds and broke 12 world records in his career, led the tributes.

"She has dominated her sport for 20 years, she has been an inspiration and has transcended disability sport," he said.

Another former Olympic star Ed Moses praised Grey-Thompson's "heart and passion", while fellow Welsh great Lyn Davies said he could not see anyone equalling her record of 11 Paralympic golds.

Grey-Thompson admits she had been toying with the idea of packing away her racing career since her last Paralympics in 2004, where she won gold in the 100m and 400m in Athens.

"The decision to retire was a fairly quick decision in the end, but a lot of things came to a head," said Grey-Thompson, speaking on BBC Radio Wales Sport's tribute to her, 'Tanni's Final Lap'.

Tanni Grey-Thompson with young daughter Carys
"Winning in Beijing would mean I would have to be away from home for five or six months this year and next year"

"At Athens I didn't know whether I wanted to retire and it wouldn't have been the right place to retire.

"It would have made a nicer story but I knew I wanted to carry on.

"But last year at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, I remember just before my 800m final looking up and thinking: 'This is probably one of the last times I'll be in front of a big stadium crowd'.

"But it was towards the back end of the year, I'd come in from a training session and said: 'That's it, I'm finished, I don't want to do it anymore'."

A large part of the reason was young daughter Carys, who was born in 2002 to Grey-Thompson and husband Ian.

"I still think I could go to Beijing (for the 2008 Paralympics) and win, but for me to be there winning would mean I would have to be away from home for five or six months this year and next year," she said.

Born on 26 July 1969 in Cardiff with spina bifida, Grey-Thompson had to use a wheelchair from the age of seven.

She was christened Carys Davina Grey, although sister Sian - two years her elder - called Grey-Thompson "tiny" when first seeing her new sister but pronounced it "tanni", and the name stuck.

Grey-Thompson first competed in 1984 for Wales, winning the 100m as a 15-year-old at the Junior National Games.

Her incredible achievement is to have been a world beater over all distances.

Grey-Thompson set more than 30 world records on the track, mainly in the sprint events, and won the London Marathon six times between 1997 and 2002.

Her finest year was 1992, where the Welshwoman won four gold medals at the Barcelona Paralympics in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m, plus silver in the 4x100m relay, setting two world records in the process.

Later that year she won the first of her six London Marathon titles.

Grey-Thompson would also win four golds in Sydney eight years later.

"Barcelona was fantastic because they actually understood Paralympic sport, we had 85,000 people a night coming in to watch the events and it was packed," she said.

"It was an amazing place to win so many medals and it felt easy!

"Probably because I was so young, 22 or 23, I didn't realise at that point how hard it was to win.

Tanni Grey-Thompson has been competing for 22 years
"Nothing will be the same again as competing"

"It was a strange thing, I think I just absolutely peaked at the right time, I didn't have any doubts I was going to do anything other than win four golds.

"In 1996 in Atlanta I won a gold and three silvers but in terms of actual performance I was better.

"In the semi-final of the 200m I broke the world record, I pushed personal bests, I pushed incredibly quickly, but in three out of four of my events there was someone who went quicker."

Two more Paralympic titles in 2004 in Athens, aged 35, brought Grey-Thompson's gold tally to 11.

She was deservedly made a Dame of the British Empire in the New Year's Honours list in 2005, having already been a holder of the OBE and MBE.

Grey-Thompson was third in the voting for BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2000 and won the BBC Wales award in 1992, 2000 and 2004.

Now, already involved heavily in the success of bringing the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics to London, she is ready to embark on a new phase of her career as a coach and broadcaster.

"I do have a plan and maybe that's partly why the retirement has come about, because I was involved in lots of other things," Grey-Thompson said.

"I coach a couple of young athletes who are aiming for Beijing and hopefully London.

"I'm involved in 2012 and other bits of sports administration and 'politicsy' sort of stuff.

"Nothing will be the same again as competing, but the stress and pressure of that you can only go through so many times."

*Listen to the full programme 'Tanni's Final Lap' on BBC Radio Wales at 2130 BST, Monday 14 May; repeated in Sportstime Saturday on 19 May from 1400 BST.



SEE ALSO
The Tanni Grey-Thompson record
13 May 07 |  Disability Sport
Grey-Thompson relieved to retire
13 May 07 |  Disability Sport
Grey-Thompson's career in photos
13 May 07 |  Other Sport...
Grey Thompson confirms retirement
28 Feb 07 |  Disability Sport
Weir & Grey Thompson strike gold
08 Sep 06 |  Disability Sport
Tanni sad to make Wales farewell
24 Mar 06 |  Commonwealth Games
Tanni to lead Wales in Melbourne
19 Dec 05 |  Sport Homepage
Meet Tanni Grey Thompson
04 Nov 05 |  Disability Sport
Tanni honour completes great year
31 Dec 04 |  Disability Sport
Tanni shines as Britain's best
28 Sep 04 |  Disability Sport
Tanni claims historic gold
27 Sep 04 |  Disability Sport
Tanni races to gold
23 Sep 04 |  Disability Sport
Tanni suffers early setback
20 Sep 04 |  Disability Sport
Tanni on top
10 Jun 03 |  Disability Sport
Bright year for Grey
29 Nov 00 |  Athletics


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