Double Paralympic champion looking to continue her dominance on the world stage, with Doha in October a ‘stepping stone’ to next year’s Games
“I started working towards Rio the moment I crossed the finish line in my last race in London,” says Hannah Cockroft. Quite a lot might have changed for the multiple world record-holder since she claimed her two Paralympic titles in the British capital in 2012 – the 22-year-old describing herself as “basically unknown” before the London Games – but despite her dominance she’s no less determined and a shake-up of the Paralympic programme has given her a new challenge ahead of next year’s event.
After London 2012, Cockroft’s T34 200m event was replaced with the 800m and since that change was announced the wheelchair racer has made it her mission to prove that her talent doesn’t stop at the sprints so she can again go for double Paralympic gold. She’s already the world record-holder for the two lap event, as well as the 100m, 200m and 400m in her category, but the step up in distance to ensure she’s competitive on the Paralympic stage has been a challenge, albeit a welcome one.
“There have been a lot of changes but a change is good, it keeps it interesting,” she says. “I’m looking forward to this season. I could either do a lot of damage or something could go terribly wrong, hopefully it’s the first option!”
The fact that Cockroft has embraced the 800m also means that she can go for triple world gold in Doha in October as she continues on that road to Rio.
“I think every championships we have up until a Paralympics is just another stepping stone,” says the Halifax athlete, who has won 100m and 200m titles at the past two editions of the IPC World Championships in Christchurch and Lyon. “Obviously triple would champion this year would be incredible if I can do it, but for me it’s more to see what shape I’m in and what shape the other girls are in, what I need to work on to ensure I can win in Rio.”
“There have been a lot of changes but a change is good, it keeps it interesting”
The next stepping stone for Cockroft comes this weekend at the IPC Athletics Grand Prix meeting in Nottwil. The European 100m and 800m champion has broken a world record in Switzerland every year since 2010 and she intends to continue her record-breaking ways this time around.
“I’m definitely aiming to lower the 100m [record] there,” she says. “I’d love to go sub-17 seconds.
“That’s a big target this year if the wind is in the right place. I have broken a world record [in Switzerland] every year since I started going about four years ago, so I don’t really want to break tradition.
“Switzerland has the fastest tracks in the world for wheelchair racing,” she adds. “Everyone goes to it, it’s phenomenal.
“If you’re going to break a world record this year that’s where you’re going to do it and that’s where you want to win.”
Cockroft has lowered her 100m PB from 18.68 in 2010 to her current best of 17.31 and her development over the past few years has been impressive. The Jenni Banks-coached athlete says she has been lucky to have had athletes such as Shelly Woods and David Weir to go to for advice and now Cockroft is the one in the mentor role as she is an ambassador for BT and has been passing her knowledge on to some of the next generation of athletics stars.
Single-leg amputee sprinter Julie Rogers and wheelchair racer Ben Rowlings have been named as the latest BT ambassadors alongside Cockroft and her fellow Paralympic champion Jonnie Peacock and the quartet recently spent a session sharing their experiences and training tips.
“With the IPC World Championships and the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on the horizon, hearing about Jonnie and Hannah’s experiences has been invaluable,” said Rowlings, who won European 800m bronze last year. “BT’s long-term commitment to Paralympic sport is unrivalled and I’m excited to be joining their ambassador team.”
» Hannah Cockroft and Jonnie Peacock are BT ambassadors. BT is the long-term supporter of disability sport in the UK