There will always be athletes who transcend the chosen sport they compete in; they have this ability to touch the hearts of people way beyond that of the sporting arena.

I have been fortunate to meet several who have done this from both the Olympic and Paralympic arena.

I know we all have a list of them who are our own favourites, and I can be slightly biased towards my fellow Paralympians as I have a level of empathy of their individual journeys. Those battles not to just win medals but to make the start line.

I was listening to a podcast this week asking: ‘What is sport?’ To each of us this might be something different but for the people on the show it was business and entertainment. They likened it to that of the gladiators.

However, as an athlete it is so much more to me. The guiding principles that motivate me in sport are not around entertainment.

Since I became involved in Paralympic sport one of my principles was for equality in sport for those who are living with a disability. I am passionate about people having the opportunity to experience sport.

I remember after the London 2012 games reading a study that showed only 38 per cent of UK schools had a disability equality scheme in place. Did this mean that most young kids with a disability were not getting access to sport?

Tatyana McFadden, one of the stars of the Paralympic movie Rising Phionex, had to fight in the courts of America for the right that disabled kids could compete in athletics at schools alongside their able-bodied classmates.

Closer to home we saw the Super League Triathlon series include para events in London last week given the athletes a chance to compete alongside the world’s best able-body athletes.

And with the UCI set to host the World Championships in Glasgow in 2023 with para cycling included it is exciting times for para sport, but we still have a long way to go.

As we celebrate these positive steps the Paralympic world was also left in mouring this week.

One of its greats, Dutch snowboarder Bibian Mentel-Spee, one of those athletes who transcended her sport, was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour and knew that she would not see the end of 2021. Sadly, at the age of just 48, she passed away.

What Mentel-Spee managed on a snowboard is incredible for most athletes to achieve, but it was what she achieved off it that was truly amazing. Whilst training for the 2002 Olympics she was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 27, with this diagnosis leading to her losing her leg.

Undeterred by cancer and life as an amputee Mentel-Spee was back on a board within months and was winning national titles. There truly was no stopping this woman.

Unfortunately, cancer would hit Bibian again before the 2018 PyeongChang games and would see her undergo two major surgeries. The Dutch federation gave up on her and she had to crowdfund her PyeongChang campaign.

She never gave up hope or her belief and what would have left most watching the games on the TV, not Bibian, she was back on a board and won double gold at the games.

In all Mentel-Spee faced cancer nine times in her life that seen her undergo multiple surgeries and on one occasion in 2016 was told her cancer was terminal.

She never gave up and moved hospitals to get advanced treatments which allowed her to push on and live life in a way we could all learn from.

 She was not just focused  on her own athletic career but knew how she could use her skills and experiences in life to help change the lives of hundreds of children living with impairments.

Whilst going through cancer and winning medals Mentel-Spee also set up a foundation that aims to get children with disabilities into sport and along with writing two books she has impacted people’s life’s all over the world.

A much-loved wife, mum, friend and athlete Bibian Mentel-Spee was one of life’s true greats.