The disability sports world is mourning the death of one of the pioneers of professional wheelchair racing, Chris Hallam.
Hallam won medals in both swimming and wheelchair racing, and competed at four Paralympic games, in 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996, winning gold, silver and two bronze medals.
But he is probably best known for his appearances in the early London wheelchair marathons, twice winning the event, in 1985 and 1987, and setting a course record on both occasions.
The prime minister, David Cameron, said via Twitter that Hallam had been “a true pioneer of disabled sport and an inspiration to athletes everywhere”.
Disability Sport Wales said Hallam was “always striving to improve his personal performances” and to promote disability sport at a time when its profile was still low.
In 1986, Hallam raised funds for the first accessible sports centre in Wales by pushing 400 miles around the country in 11 days with his close friend and fellow Welsh wheelchair athlete John Harris.
They reached the fund-raising target in 1997 by pushing a further 600 miles in 37 days, raising enough money for the centre to be built in Cardiff.
Harris said Hallam was his “hero” and “the first of the true professionals in Paralympic sport”.
He said: “He was the consummate athlete who prepared for every event down to the smallest detail. He was a larger-than-life character that you just wanted to be near to.”
After retiring from competitive sport, Hallam coached other wheelchair racers within the Disability Sport Wales academy system.
Jim Munkley, a Disability Sport Wales board member and one of Hallam’s team-mates at the Seoul, Barcelona and Atlanta Paralympics, said he would be remembered as “a true legend of Paralympic and Welsh sport”.
He said: “Not only was he a true competitor in every sense of the word, but he was also a great character to be around and to have known.
“Disability sport in Wales owes much to Chris and I have no doubt that we would not be where we are today without the huge contribution that he made to the development of our sport.”
Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson described Hallam on Twitter as a “wheelchair sport ‘icon’” and said he was “the reason we are where we are in wheelchair racing”.
Another iconic figure of wheelchair racing, David Weir, said on Twitter that Hallam had been one of his heroes and a “legend”, while fellow London 2012 wheelchair racing gold medallist Mickey Bushell said he had been a “true hero and a legend of the sport”.
The Canadian former wheelchair athlete Jeff Adams said Hallam had been “one of a kind”, “a fierce competitor”, and “one of the building blocks of the sport”.
The British Paralympic Association said Hallam had been “an inspiration to many and contributed to the development of the Paralympic movement” in Britain.
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com