The 17-time global wheelchair racing gold medallist has to wait for the chance to build on her strong 2019 season
Hannah Cockroft admits that initially she found the postponement of Tokyo 2020 tough to take but the multiple global gold medallist says this year no longer has that major championship feel to it.
In a coronavirus-free world, the British wheelchair racer would have been out in Japan right now, defending her Paralympic T34 100m and 800m titles. Given the success she achieved last year, taking her tally of world gold medals to 12 with a double win in Dubai, Cockroft says the disruption this year “was a bit of a knock”.
“Last year was a really good year,” reflects the 28-year-old, who retained her 100m and 800m titles in the United Arab Emirates, breaking the world record for the shorter event with a time of 16.77.
“Obviously, the world championships was the cherry on top of the cake. It was not what I expected. After such a terrible year in 2018, I felt like 2019 was my deciding year – was I going to carry on racing or was that it? Had I already done everything I could do in the sport? But the end of the year proved to me that I could still go quicker. I had been chasing a sub-17 second 100m for six or seven years but could never get it. Then I finally achieved it. That showed me that there was still something inside me that I could bring out.
“That left me really excited for this year because I knew there were mistakes that I made in Dubai and I knew that I could correct them and be better and go quicker. So 2019 was a fantastic year, which I had hoped to recreate this year, but it will have to wait until next year now.”
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12 time World Champion, 20 time International gold medalist (Paralympics, World & European Championships) and World record holder. Thanks Dubai, you’ve been more than I could have hoped 💕 And thank you 🇬🇧 for all the messages of love and support! Now time for sleep… 🙏🏻 #thankyou
Did having such a successful 2019 make the disruption in 2020 harder to take?
“Yes,” she replies. “I think, had I had my 2018 season in 2019, I might have been breathing a sigh of relief this year that the Games were not happening. But I knew I was in shape and I was in form. I was training really well and I had sorted myself out.
“So this year was a bit of a knock. I had found a swing and suddenly that routine and that rhythm had been taken away from me, and from everyone. I do keep thinking, ‘what if I can’t find it again?’ But I think I will when we properly get back on the track. I’m missing it.”
Finding positives in the enforced break from racing, Cockroft explains: “It has been nice to have the time to focus on training, focus on recovery – the little bits in training that you sometimes sweep under the rug as you haven’t got the time. Some techniques that you need to work on, or things you need to tweak.
“I spent lockdown at home in Chester with my boyfriend, (fellow wheelchair racer) Nathan Maguire. I was the one in the house that cried when it was announced that the Games were not going to take place this year. I was absolutely gutted.
“But this year doesn’t feel like a Paralympic year anymore,” she adds. “It doesn’t feel like that is where we should be. I have kind of accepted it.
“Obviously I think it would be worse if we didn’t have a competition to look forward to. But there is an aim now, there is something to go for, and I believe that I did put everything I could into my training while I could. I had faith we would race at some point this year. And we are.”
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Go the extra mile, it’s never crowded 🏋️♀️ Welcome to our little garage gym! It’s taken us all 100 days of lockdown to save for, but we finally got there! Because we need specific accessible equipment, such as a wider bench/ a separate bench to the rack/ a pull up bar we can reach (!) it hasn’t been the easiest project as we couldn’t just buy the cheapest things we could find (gym equipment is SO expensive?!) but with gym openings being moved back again, we knew we had to go the extra mile to make sure our training is the best we can make it, so we’re sorted no matter what happens. It might not be the prettiest but we’re already feeling the difference after 2 sessions… my arms are aching from lifting again 💪 #lockdownathletics #quarentinegym #garagegym #athletesinlockdown #commitment #investment #tokyotraining
A focus for Cockroft has been the Müller British Athletics Championships which will take place behind closed doors in Manchester on September 4 and 5 and feature four para events for the first time.
Two wheelchair and two ambulant track events have been added to the programme, with Cockroft racing over 400m.
“I’m really excited,” she says. “I might be a little bit nervous because obviously I have no idea how fast I’m going at the moment or if the training I’ve done has been the right training. But I’m excited to get back on the track to do the thing that I love, especially in Manchester.
“I don’t get many opportunities to race in the north, so it’s close to home for me. Even though there won’t be a crowd, to have TV coverage and to have wheelchair racing put on for the first time at a British Champs is massive. If we can do it this year then hopefully it’s a sign of good things to come.
“I think I’ll get there and just enjoy it. I’m not putting too much pressure on myself to get a really good time or do anything big. I’m just going to get there and do what I love, which is racing.”
» The Müller British Athletics Championships is set to be broadcast live on the BBC on September 4-5, shown on BBC Two from 18:30 on the Friday and on BBC One from 13:15 on the Saturday