Olympic legacy: ‘We haven’t been forgotten this time’

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Hannah Cockroft returns to limelight with her sponsorship falling away but her dreams coming true

Athletics Correspondent

The rain may be lashing down in Lyon but it’s hard to break Hannah Cockroft’s sunny disposition. Her two gold medals at last summer’s Paralympics – in the T34 100m and 200m – were matched only by her 100mph TV interviews in which she couldn’t get her words or excitement out fast enough.

The fast-talking, fast-wheeling, all-smiling 20-year-old returned to  centre stage at the International Paralympic Committee Athletics World Championships to win the 200m. Indeed she has been virtually unbeatable in both events for which she is the Olympic and world champion, as well as world-record holder, and she is not even quietly confident that she can emulate her gargantuan winning margins of 2012.

“I’m in the shape to break a world record,” she said on the eve of the championships. “I’ve raced most of the girls this year and I’ve not seen the gaps getting closer. My plan is to be even further ahead.”

Along with the sprinter Jonnie Peacock, she is the undoubted star of the British team – which is missing the four-time London gold medallist David Weir – and as such features heavily in the “Return of the Superhumans” advert for Channel 4’s coverage.

Nearly a year on from the highlight of her career, she looks back on a period of time “that changed my life”. When you ask exactly how, her youthful enthusiasm comes gushing out once more. “I’ve met McFly three times, ah, they’re lovely,” she says. “I also got to meet Jon Bon Jovi. These are the sort of things you dream of doing but this 20-year-old from Halifax is getting to do them.

“I’ve been to some amazing things, the National Television Awards and BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards, I get so many messages, letters, presents. I even got a rose named after me recently, Hannah Lucy Rose.”

Life has not all been a bed of roses for Cockroft, however. In the lead-up to London, sponsors were lining up to get her on their books. Now her sole backer is BT, the other sponsors having fallen by the wayside as the euphoria of last summer has dissipated.

“I remember thinking after London that I’d come to the Games and won two gold medals and everyone would want me,” she admits. “That didn’t happen and it’s a bit like, ‘OK, why don’t they want me?’

“But it’s just something you have to accept and some athletes have no sponsors or Lottery funding. I’m not in a bad place. But it’s been strange seeing athletes with just a silver or even no medals with loads of sponsors. You have to sell yourself as an athlete. I don’t know, maybe I’m not enough of a personality.”

Nothing could be further from the truth for one of the most colourful figures in British athletics. The lack of sponsorship is not just a Paralympic problem; that fate has befallen Olympians too, with long jump gold medallist Greg Rutherford recently revealing he had been left without a sponsor.

Regardless of that situation, Cockroft has relished the last year and argues that perceptions of Paralympians and, more broadly, all people with disabilities have changed markedly. “It’s different to before – we haven’t been forgotten again,” she says. “We’ve never had this much attention before. People want to be the next Jonnie Peacock or David Weir, and there are a lot more people coming into the sport.

“But I think things have improved not just for athletes but disabled people in general. We’re a lot more accepted in society now, a lot more confident. I think people feel like they can go out and do what they want to do without getting stared at or comments.”

Her one frustration is with those who try to be overly helpful. “People are only trying to be nice when they ask if they can push you around or help you up the kerb,” she says. “In your head you’re like, ‘do you want me to help you walk?’ But normally I just say, ‘no, you’re OK thanks’. As I say, they’re just being nice by it.”

After London, like many of her peers, she struggled for motivation.Her coach, Peter Eriksson, had quit the Paralympic programme, she was training by herself and the weather was terrible over the winter months. Training involved being glued to the rollers indoors when all she wanted to do was “stay in bed really”.

A switch to new coach, Jenny Banks, in January sparked her motivation, partly because of wanting to prove herself to her new mentor but also having to adapt to new innovations in training.

Now she is somewhere near being back to her best both in terms of training and competition. As a result, she is setting herself ambitious targets, the biggest being Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson’s haul of 11 Paralympic golds. “I’ve got two world titles, two Olympic titles and world records all at a young age,” she says. “Maybe I can be the one that gets the most gold medals ever.”

Wallace breaks 200m record

In addition to Hannah Cockroft’s victory in the women’s 200m T34 race, fellow Brit Libby Clegg crossed the line first in the women’s 200m T12 semi-final. The final takes place tonight. Clegg took silver in the 100m T12 at both the Beijing and London Paralympic Games. The American Jarryd Wallace became the new world-record holder in the men’s 200m T44 class after running 22.32sec in the heats of the event. “It feels pretty good,” said Wallace of his record and victory. “We’ve been putting in a lot of hard work and I made a technical change about one month ago with the prosthetic and it’s been the right decision.” The 23-year-old added: “I’m just excited to get out here [again for the final] and lower it [his time] again.” When asked whether he could beat the time when he races in today’s final, Wallace confidently replied: “Just wait and see!” His compatriot Raymond Martin won gold in the 1,500m T52 and said after his triumph: “I felt great it was a shiny day for me and America.”

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future