Five-time Paralympic and 10-time world champion wants to put on her best show back in the London Stadium
Hannah Cockroft admits that her motivation has dipped slightly in a quieter year with no global championships, but she’s determined to remain at the top of her game, particularly with the Müller Anniversary Games just over a month away.
With World Para Athletics yet to confirm which events in Cockroft’s T34 classification might be held at the European Championships in Berlin in August, as it’s dependent on entry numbers, the Anniversary Games at the London Stadium provides a welcome major target for the 25-year-old, who took her world title tally to 10 in the UK capital last summer.
“It’s a massive motivation,” says Cockroft ahead of making her fifth Anniversary Games appearance. “You want to go out there and show off in front of everyone that comes to watch you and show that there’s a reason why they are still supporting you, six years on from London 2012.”
The five-time Paralympic gold medallist, who won two of her titles in London six years ago, adds: “With it being integrated with the Diamond League, it’s a massive opportunity for us. I think it shows organisers that able-bodied and Paralympic sport can run side-by-side – people are interested in both and people will watch both and it’s great that we get the opportunity in Britain to show that.
“It’s great to put our Paralympic names on the start lists and get them out there in front of audiences that maybe sometimes wouldn’t tune in to watch what we do. It’s a massive opportunity and you want to really make the most of that and go out and make people fall in love with what you do, you want to inspire people and you want to get more people interested in para sport.”
“It shows organisers that able-bodied and Paralympic sport can run side-by-side – people are interested in both and people will watch both”
Many of Cockroft’s most memorable moments have happened in the London Stadium and on July 22 she’ll race over 100m – one of five events in which she holds the world record – against a field including her fellow Briton Kare Adenegan.
“The Anniversary Games are going to be almost a year to the day since I won my 10th world title so, going out there, there’s so many memories,” she says. “I sit on the start line and I still feel the nerves that I felt at London 2012 because it feels exactly the same.
“Even London 2017, I was doing my warm-up lap and I was fighting back tears because it reminded me so much of the amazing moments I had at London 2012. It is really hard to switch off from that and focus on what’s happening.
“It’s exciting and it’s nerve-racking but ultimately you just want to put on the best race that you can. Being in that stadium always makes you feel like you’re at a major championships. Whether it is or it isn’t, you always want to put on your best show there just because it’s the London Stadium and it’s the most amazing track in the world.”
Following the global event in the UK capital last July, it was recently announced that the next edition of the World Para Athletics Championships will take place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from November 7-15 in 2019.
The decision prompted a mixed reaction, but Cockroft doesn’t think the late calendar date and conditions will be anything that athletes can’t handle.
“If you really want to win then you’ll get there and you’ll perform at both the Worlds and the Paralympic Games”
“I’ve seen a lot of complaints from athletes online but the thing is, Doha 2015 was in October, the October before Rio, and everyone managed to perform at both,” she says. “This world champs is going to be no different.
“Yes, it’s going to be a long season and that will be difficult, but we’ve had two relatively short seasons, with last year’s world champs and this year’s European championships, so one summer of working through is not really going to kill us. If you really want to win then you’ll get there and you’ll perform at both the Worlds and the Paralympic Games.
“I just think it’s exciting that finally we have confirmation, we are going to have a world championships,” she adds, “because I think it was in doubt for a long time that we would even have one. So just really well done to the IPC (World Para Athletics) for finding somewhere that can host us.
“Any good athlete and coach pairing are going to work out a plan to make sure that you can compete to the best of your ability at both championships. I’m excited and looking forward to it.”
» See the June 21 edition of AW magazine for more from an interview with Hannah Cockroft, including comment on classification
» The Müller Anniversary Games is a fantastic family day out and will feature the world’s biggest athletics stars in action at the London Stadium on July 21-22. Tickets are available via www.britishathletics.org.uk