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.”

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?