“Someone asked me the other day if I thought Paralympians should have a separate award at Sports Personality of the Year. Definitely not. Seb Coe promised that the Paralympics in 2012 would be on a par with the Olympics. I never believed that beforehand, but I believe it now.
“Just before the Victory Parade, Chris Hoy came up to me and said it blew him away what I did at the Games. Ben Ainslie said I was fantastic, Bradley Wiggins personally invited me to his charity foundation’s dinner. We had a laugh and a chat. It still feels surreal, but all those people were talking to me because they saw how much effort I had put in. They knew that Paralympic sport was on the same level as the Olympics.
“So why would you separate us in Sports Personality? Your race, colour or gender doesn’t matter, so why should Paralympians be different? You should be there on merit.
“I gave up wheelchair racing after competing at the Atlanta Paralympics in 1996 – I was 17, and had sacrificed a lot of things to be there, but it really wasn’t what I expected. Four years later I was watching the Sydney Paralympics on television. I tried to watch Tanni Grey-Thompson win her medals, but I had to turn the TV off. I felt devastated. It was the best Paralympics ever, the crowds were amazing, and I had missed out. I thought I’d never see anything like that again.
“It just makes me so proud, therefore, that we pulled off what we did this summer. I always talk to Tanni about Sydney, how it inspired me to get out and train again. I hope I’ve done that for others. I’ve already seen a couple of young people come down to the track. There was a boy of 11, big long arms, looked a bit like me! He said he saw me on TV and decided to give wheelchair racing a go. That put a smile on my face.
“People say 2012 changed people’s perceptions about Paralympic sport. We need to keep the momentum going. I’d love to see a Paralympian win Sports Personality. Realistically, I think it’s a tough ask this year, but having a few of us on the shortlist is another step forward.
“I had to hold back the tears every time I went onto the podium in London as 80,000 people were there to see me collect my medal. If they’d been there out of pity, or to see the stadium and soak up the atmosphere, they wouldn’t have waited so late. People were there for great sport, different sport, and wanted to see it to the end.”
Gold in T54 800M, 1500M, 5000M and marathon, London Paralympics
What the commentator said
“What a performance! What a week! C’mon Dave, keep pushing! He has delivered once again! He is one of the greatest of all time!”
Who would be your sports personality?
“I’d love to see Bradley Wiggins win, but it would be great if someone from the Paralympics was recognised – Ellie Simmonds or myself, although I shouldn’t really say that!”
Sports Personality of the Year 2012 is on 16 December at 7:30pm on BBC1