Chris Hallam MBE, one of the most influential athletes in Paralympic sport

A snapshot of Chris as a person and his athletics career can be seen in this fantastic 2 min clip courtesy of BBC Wales:

Mavericks: Sport's Lost Heroes

Chris Hallam was born on the 31st December 1962 and from a baby he loved being in the water. He became a competitive swimmer and as a teenager participated in swimming trials aspiring to represent Wales. 

At 17 years old, on his way to swimming practice, he lost control of his motorbike and his spinal cord was damaged in the accident. Devastating as this was, Chris accepted his disability and the changes to his life but was still determined to succeed in sport.

Chris is best known for competing in the London Marathon, winning the men's wheelchair event in 1985 and 1987. It was a pivotal moment for disability sport. For the first time the British public got to see wheelchair athletes competing with able-bodied sportsmen. Chris saw himself as a sportsman, not a disabled sportsman. He dominated races not just as an athlete but in how he looked visually! He stood out from the other athletes with his bleached hair, sunglasses ('Shades' was his nickname), tanned skin, bright outfits and pink racing wheelchair. 

Chris Hallam at the finish line of the London Marathon

Chris at the finish line of the London Marathon. © Getty Images

During his career, Chris competed for Great Britain at 4 Paralympic Games: Stoke Mandeville in 1984 wining gold for 50m breaststroke; Seoul in 1988 winning bronze for 400m wheelchair race; Barcelona in 1992 winning bronze for 100m; and Atlanta in 1996. He also held world records in the 100 and 200m wheelchair race.

Tanni Grey-Thompson talks about Chris,

Disability sport wheelchair racing needed someone with Chris's personality to challenge and push the barriers and make people take notice...the youngsters in the sport today need to thank him as they wouldn't have the sport today without him 

Photo of Chris Hallams racing wheelchair

Chris Hallam's racing wheelchair. Donated to NPHT.

In 1988 he was awarded an MBE for services to disability sport. When he retired from competing in 1996, he went on to coach successful athletes such as Rose Hill and Dan Lucker. He was Chairman of the British Wheelchair Association from 1990 until 1992 and Head Wheelchair Racing Coach for the GB team at the 2006 World Championships. He was a strong personality who pushed the boundaries and often upset the hierarchy and those in authority. After retiring from coaching he studied for a degree and MBA at the University of Wales.

Chris and John Harris organised and took on charity wheelchair races, raising money to support young athletes in purchasing racing wheelchairs. For one of their charity races they travelled 600 miles in 37 days, visiting 46 towns. During this race Chris was very unwell with kidney failure and went on to have a successful kidney transplant in 1999.

In 2011 Chris was diagnosed with Lymphoma and wasn't well enough to attend the London 2012 Paralympics. Although he received treatment he didn't recover and died on the 16th August 2013.

John Harris said of Chris,

Such a loss ... he still had so much to contribute and so much to give. He will leave some fantastic memories and a legacy that will live on for as long as we have the Paralympic Games. He would've absolutely loved to be here today and see what he's left these kids, that legacy is phenomenal!

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