Baroness Sue Masham, centre, was presented with a replica of her lost Paralympic gold medal last year ©British Paralympic Association

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has paid tribute to double Paralympic gold medallist Baroness Sue Masham of Ilton, who has died aged 87, describing her as a "champion, campaigner and ambassador for disability rights".

Representing Britain, Masham won gold in Para swimming at the 1960 Summer Paralympics in Rome and gold in Para table tennis at the 1964 Summer Paralympics in Tokyo.

In 1970 she had been elevated to the House of Lords, the upper chamber of the British Parliament, in recognition of her work in campaigning for the rights of those with spinal injuries.

The London Gazette, the official bulletin which announces British honours, recorded that it was for "social services and services to the handicapped".

Masham served as a cross-bench member for 53 years, the longest serving woman to do so.

Paralympic champion Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, a multiple Paralympic champion, who followed her into the House of Lords, added her condolences in a social media post.

"Really sad to hear of the passing of Baroness Masham, the first Paralympian in the House of Lords," Grey-Thompson said.

Masham suffered an injury to her spinal cord during a riding accident in 1958.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson followed Baroness Sue Masham into the House of Lords ©Getty Images
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson followed Baroness Sue Masham into the House of Lords ©Getty Images

During her rehabilitation and recovery at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, she met Dr Ludwig Guttmann, the surgeon who had organised the first International Games for Wheelchair Athletes in 1948.

Guttmann is regarded as the founder of the Paralympic Movement.

"I met Ludwig Guttmann while I was recovering from my injury at Stoke Mandeville," Masham recalled. 

"He started the sports movement for the paralysed and he said if people can compete in sport, then they can compete in everyday life."

Masham was chosen for the British team for the first Paralympic Games held in Rome in 1960.

She helped raise funds for members of the team to attend the Games by participating in an archery competition at Finmere in Oxfordshire organised by the family of fellow Paralympian Sally Haynes.

The event raised £3,097 ($3,764/€3,505) which was presented to Dr Guttmann.

At the 1960 Rome Paralympics, Masham won swimming gold in the 25 metres breaststroke complete C2 category and bronze in the 25m backstroke complete C2 event, plus Para table tennis bronze in women’s doubles B. 

Masham competed in two further Paralympics.

At Tokyo 1964, her gold in Para table tennis women’s doubles B was accompanied by Para swimming silver medals in 25m freestyle prone complete C2, 25m freestyle supine complete C2, and 25m breaststroke complete C2.

At the 1968 Paralympics in Tel Aviv she won Para table tennis silver in the women’s doubles B and bronze in the women’s singles B.

It later emerged that her first gold medal had been lost after a visit to a restaurant near the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

Last year British Paralympic Association chairman Nick Webborn arranged for a replica medal, recast by goldsmiths Ursae Limited, using original medals and three dimensional printing technology.

"There is no better example of our vision, 'to inspire a better world for disabled people' than you," Webborn told her. 

Masham had been one of 50 team members in 1960.

At the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, the BPA sent 227.

"It’s amazing how the Paralympic movement has changed, it’s marvellous to think how it has spread around the world," Masham reflected.

"It’s made all the difference to people’s lives."

Masham established the Spinal Injuries Association and was also a vice-president of WheelPower, Britain's national organisation for wheelchair sports.

In 2012, she took part in the Flame Lighting Ceremony for the London Paralympics held at Stoke Mandeville.