Baronness Tanni Grey-Thompson BDE is one of Britain's most decorated Paralympians, a crossbench peer and TV presenter and was chosen to light the Paralympic torch last week at the Heritage Flame Lighting ceremony in Stoke Mandeville.

Having competed in five iterations of the Paralympic games, starting with Seoul in 1988 and ending with Athens in 2004, Baronness Grey-Thompson won 16 medals (11 gold, four silver and a bronze) to go with her 13 World Championship medals for wheelchair racing.

Tanni Grey-Thompson of Great Britain on her way to winning the Gold Medal in the Women's 800m T53 Final during the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games at Olympic Stadium, Homebush Bay, Sydney. Australia.

We had a chat with her as she prepared for her role in lighting the Heritage Flame, the only Paralympic torch event to be held outside of Brazil. During the Rio 2016 Paralympic Opening Ceremony, the flame will join five others from around Brazil to light the Paralympic Cauldron.

Why is the heritage flame lighting ceremony here at Stoke Mandeville so important?

I think it's amazing! It's great that the International Paralympic Committee have said that every two years the flame lighting can be here, because this is the spiritual home of the games.

Although there was lots of different little bits of disability sports around the world, they didn't have the big organised events thats started here. This is where it started so it's brilliant that its back here.

The only photograph from the first ever Stoke Mandeville Games, held in 1948 by Sir Ludwig Guttman, a spinal injury specialist at Stoke Mandeville Hospital

I think history is really important to know how far we've come. In the 40's people with spinal cord injuries weren't treated. They were left to die and because they didn't think you had any quality of life, and it wasn't worth treating you.

Sir Ludwig Guttman came in and said 'actually because we don't have enough ward space for the war injured we have to find a way to rehabilitate them and get them out and getting them back into society'. What was all tokenistic and paternalistic before him, he came in and said 'no this has to be different'.

It's really hard to fight the system as he did but its amazing what he achieved.

Tanni Grey of Great Britain smiles after winning the gold medal in the 400 metres event at the 1992 Paralympics in Barcelona, Spain.

Beyond the title of being the birthplace of the paralympic movement, what significance does Stoke Mandeville have today?

I spend a lot of time here. There are hundreds of kids who started their sporting careers here. I came here at 12 for my first national games and I don't even know how many times a year I am back here but its a lot!

When you come here as a wheelchair user you've got everything on site that you'd ever need. You haven't got to get out of your car. The gym, the pool, the accommodation. That number of accessible rooms is amazing. And obviously the track. Its still a really amazing place to be able to come and do sport.

The flame was lit by wheelchair racer Baronness Tanni Grey Thompson and skier Kelly Gallagher MBE and was the only Paralympic flame event outside of Brazil.

How far has disability sport come since you competed in your first Paralympics in 1988, and where does it have to go from here?

It's come a really long way. In Seoul and Barcelona we had really big crowds. In Barcelona they were selling tickets, in Seoul I think they gave them away, and so the games have been a little up and down through that time.

Barcelona was amazing, Atlanta was a bit of a challenge, Sydney was good again, but even in Sydney, which has got this huge reputation for sport and massive support for the Paralympic team, they still had trouble selling out tickets.

MANCHESTER - JULY 25: Tanni Grey-Thompson leads in ther Wales team during the Opening Ceremony at the City of Manchester Stadium during the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England on July 25, 2002. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images) Mandatory Credit: Getty Images/Getty Images CWG2002 DIGITAL IMAGE Tanni Grey-Thompson leads in t Tanni Grey-Thompson leads in t

I think London has set the bar really high, and for both games there's not been an Olympics or Paralympics that sold out the way London did. I think Rio will move it on a bit but maybe not as much as we'd hoped.

When you look at the representation we've got from around the world, countries now see Paralympic sport, as important as Olympic sport.

I know this is a really strange way of looking at it, but the fact that the Russian team are banned for taking drugs, shows how important it is to Russia to compete well at the Paralympics. Its not the best marker of how important it is, the drug taking is not good. It shows though, that its not just a bit patronising and a bit 'oh isn't it lovely they're having a go', it means a lot to society.