PIONEERING Paralympian Chris Hallam MBE was given an emotional send-off yesterday in a funeral at his native Cwmbran.

A crowd of around 300 people gathered at St Gabriel’s Church, Old Cwmbran to bid farewell to one of its most famous sons.

A tearful Tanni Grey-Thompson, who won 11 Paralympic gold medals and said she was inspired to compete by Mr Hallam, was among several disabled athletes at the service.

Mr Hallam, who won medals for swimming and wheelchair racing at three consecutive Paralympic Games, died suddenly last month aged 50. He had been battling cancer and had a kidney transplant over ten years ago.

Father Michael Phillips led the 45 minute service, which was followed by burial at Llwyncelyn Cemetery, Cwmbran with close friends and family.

An emotional speech was given by Mr Hallam’s lifelong friend, John Harris, who said how he first met Mr Hallam when he was 17 years old and joked that his “ego was as big as his head”, but that he later succeeded in changing disability sport "forever". He paid tribute to “a good friend, a legend, and a one-off”.

before the congregation sang the hymns ‘Fight The Good Fight’, ‘Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise’, and ‘Praise, My Soul, The King Of Heaven’.

Father Michael said the Paralympian had kept a piece of paper up on his bedroom mirror, which was a list to remind him of seven important lessons in life. He added that Mr Hallam had "made a difference".

A message on behalf of the Hallam family, written on the order of service, read: “Thank you for being here today. We are grateful for the letters, cards, words of condolence and floral tributes received.”

The family asked for any donations in lieu of flowers to be given to Cancer Research UK.

Mr Hallam won the London Marathon twice, setting course records in both 1985 and 1987, and also competed for Team Wales at the Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada in 1994.

With Mr Harris by his side, Mr Hallam "pushed" 600 miles in 37 days in 1997, raising enough money for the the first accessible sports centre in the country to be built at the University of Wales Institute, Cyncoed Campus site in Cardiff.

Mr Hallam, who lived in Pontypool at the time of his death on Friday, August 16, was paralysed below the chest in a motorcycling accident, but later competed as an able-bodied swimmer. He also won the 50m breaststroke at the World Disabled Games.

After announcing his retirement from competitive sport in 1996, Mr Hallam coached other up-and-coming wheelchair racers within the Disability Sport Wales academy system.