It was wonderful to see Wales represented in the short list for Sports Personality of the Year 2019. After Geraint Thomas winning the top prize last year, our nation of 3.5 million people has been boxing above it’s weight, excuse the sporting metaphor. This continued with the Welsh rugby union captain Alun Wyn Jones, who has won the Welsh Sports Personality of the year 2019, in the hunt for the double.
Wales, like all small nations, takes great pride in it’s success and in it’s sporting greats in particular. In last night’s ceremony another of the Welsh sporting greats was honoured, Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson.
When it comes to sporting honours she is someone very special with countless Paralympic, World, European, Commonwealth and British titles to her name not forgetting several wins at the London and other major marathons. It was no surprise therefore that she was given a lifetime achievement award during last night’s glittering ceremony. It will be something she and her family will have appreciated and can take great pride in.
Sadly, she was in the news a short time ago for very different reasons. Someone had seen her with her daughter and had asked, how did you become pregnant? Then going further by hinting that a person like her should not have children.
Why do members of society think they have the right to approach a disabled person and ask such questions? When they wouldn’t consider doing so with an able bodied person. Has our society really become such an unpleasant place to be? Why has intolerance become such an uncomfortable norm of any minority in our society.
I have felt since Brexit and the election of Donald Trump that people think they can be as insulting as they like after all if the leader of ‘The Free World’s doing it they think it has to be ok.
Like Baroness Grey -Thompson, I have Spina Bifida, as did my late Wife Shan. Both Tanni and Shan took the decision with their partners at the time, to have a child. Shan and I would have followed suit if we had become a couple earlier in life.
As part of the research for this blog post, I asked the Spina Bifida charity SHINE what percentage of couples, where one has Spina Bifida, carry on with the pregnancy after the 20 week scan and they it’s 34% and that is the highest it’s been. With the new surgery available within the womb to reduce the affects of the condition, following diagnosis, hopefully this percentage will continue to rise. Allowing more people with Spina Bifida to share in the joy of having a family.
Any group within society needs it’s heroes. With the rising prominence of the Paralympic movement those of us who have a disability now have ours. Those of us from Wales have in Baroness Tanni Grey -Thompson one of the greatest of them all. As a nation we should be hugely proud of her. We should also be ready to lead the way with the respect given to those in our country who have a disability and we should encourage them to become active members of our nation. In whatever sphere they choose.