BARONESS Tanni Grey-Thompson spoke about her career success and encouraged children to stand up for themselves in a speech delivered at the University of South Wales.
The 11 Paralympic gold medal winner told an audience of 100 people about her struggle with nerves before races and the stigma surrounding disabilities at a speech as part of the teachers’ and advisers’ conference 2014 at the USW’s Newport city campus.
She said: “People told me ‘you can’t be an athlete and a mother’. It will make you soft. I actually had a woman come up to me and say ‘people like you shouldn’t have children’.”
“Newer athletes who didn’t know me were completely amazed at how nervous I got before a race. I used to throw up two hours before a race. I had huge self-doubt about what I was trying to do.”
The star gave a speech as part of the Engage. Inspire. Progress conference, which lasted two days at the university. Baroness Grey-Thompson embarked with a phrase from her Welsh-speaking grandfather which she said helped to inspire her.
She said: “He used to say, ‘Aim high, even if you hit a cabbage.’ It’s about a goal and a dream. What’s the worst that can happen? In my sports career I lost on more races than I won.”
The Paralympian who has more than 20 world records was back racing in the London Marathon in 2002, ten weeks after giving birth to her daughter, Carys. Baroness Grey-Thompson was born with spina bifida in 1969, which she said made her gradually paralysed.
She said: “For my parents it was really difficult at the time I became paralysed because of people’s views of me. My parents treated me as an individual, but others said I would never get a job, never go to university or ever be married.”
In her role in the House of Lords, Baroness Grey-Thompson has been campaigning for schools to recognise PE as a core subject.
She said: “Sports is great to build confidence, especially for girls. Not enough girls take up sports.”