‘Leave nothing on the finish line’: Tanni Grey-Thompson’s message to Welsh athletes in Tokyo

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson has urged Welsh athletes competing in Tokyo to "enjoy the moment" despite a lack of spectators at this year's Olympics.

The former Paralympian, who won 11 gold medals across five games, told ITV Wales that it would be difficult for athletes to raise their game without the noise of the crowd. 

After a surge in Covid-19 cases, organisers agreed earlier this month that fans from overseas should not be allowed to attend the events.

Drawing on her own experience, Grey-Thompson said she thinks it will be particularly hard on younger athletes.

“I’ve competed in front of 110,000 and I’ve competed in front of 3 people and a dog and I know which I prefer. Absolutely, it does raise you. 

“I think, given the choice of no crowd or not being able to compete in the Olympics or Paralympics, the athletes will choose no crowd. 

“The hard bit is for the families who might’ve been able to go; not having your family there in that moment, not being able to see them, even spend a couple of minutes with them and say thank you, because it’s the families that make massive sacrifices. 

“A phone call isn't the same, and that’s going to be pretty hard, especially on the younger athletes.” 

For 18 of the 26 Welsh athletes competing, Tokyo 2020 will be their first Olympic Games and “it will be a far cry from what any of them would’ve imagined” says Grey-Thompson. 

Asked what her message to these debut Olympians, the 51-year-old said: “It’s hard, it’s going to be different, but you don’t actually have anything else to call on so just enjoy the privilege that you have, be the best you can be, leave nothing on the finish line, do everything you can.”

Tanni won 11 gold medals across five games Credit: PA

This year’s Games sees 26 athletes representing Wales within Team GB, the largest ever contingent at an Olympic Games held outside of the UK. 

“It’s amazing having so many Welsh athletes as part of the GB Team. 

“For such a small nation it’s really punching above its weight in terms of selection and medals, it makes me feel really proud about all the work that’s going in Wales around physical literacy and education, inclusion and all those different things. 

“We’ve got some really strong medal contenders there as well so we’re keeping our fingers crossed that everything goes well for them", Tanni said.

When asked which athletes she has got her eyes on this year, the former Paralympian said: “There are so many good athletes."

Credit: PA

“Lauren Price, the boxer, I love her to bits. I think she is just fab as a person, as an athlete between different sports and the passion that she has. I really, really hope that she does well. 

“Elinor Barker as well, going for her second Olympic Gold. She’s a really down to earth, lovely young woman and understands the responsibility that she has. 

“I just want all the Welsh athletes to do their bit as part of the GB Team."

Vicky Thornley said competing at the Olympics is a "dream come true" Credit: PA

Wrexham rower Vicky Thornley has already paved the way for her teammates by winning her heat in the Women’s Singles Sculls. She has described her journey to Tokyo as a dream come true.

"Coming to the Olympics in the singles has been a dream of mine for some time, so it's good to be out there doing what I love."

Thornley will compete on Sunday in the semi-finals.

Fellow rower Graeme Thomas has also progressed to the semi-finals after coming second in the Men’s Double Sculls.

Having missed his chance in Rio in 2016 due to illness, Thomas said it was an emotional moment.

"There were definitely some tears behind the sunglasses. I'm not going to lie, there's definitely been some anxiety in the few weeks leading up to this, especially with the Covid factor on top.

"With it being a virus in 2016, that really does exacerbate the fear of something going wrong again.

"It's a big relief to get that out of the way. Now I can call myself an Olympian, and the job is to win a medal for Team GB with John.

"It's nice to get that milestone out of the way after all these years.”

Geraint Thomas and Jade Jones will be competing in the first weekend, both looking for medals. Credit: PA

Geraint Thomas and Jade Jones will be competing in the first weekend, both looking for medals.

After winning Taekwondo gold at London 2012 & Rio 2016, Jade Jones is looking to make history by winning a third consecutive gold medal.