Double Paralympic Champion and ten-time World Champion Hannah Cockroft has described the privilege she feels to be a Paralympian, while speaking at the Sport Industry Private Dining Club earlier this week, explaining how it’s not something that many disabled people are able to do.
The five-time Paralympic Gold Medallist entertained the roomful of senior sport business professionals - from companies including EE, NFL, BeIN Sport, British Olympic Association, Copa 90, Populous, HSBC and many more - with her down-to-earth nature and humble attitude despite her glittering career.
Cockroft was keen to stress how fortunate she was, as a disabled person, to compete at the highest level, saying: “Even though you view us as superhumans, we are still pretty ill people that rely on the services that this country provides and that allows us to become the Paralympians that we are today.
“I love the term superhumans, don’t get me wrong, I love it and I was totally honoured to be part of that but only a few of us can be that. Not every disabled person in the country is a superhuman.
“I’m not superhuman, I’m just super lucky to do what I do.”
Cockroft has been trying to increase the opportunities for more disabled people to compete at a high level, especially outside of London, and recently organised her own event.
Cockroft explained: “I meet so many kids that come into wheelchair racing and can’t race in the north so me and my boyfriend Nathan had this stupid idea that we’d put on our own meet. It was just in our heads for a long time and then six weeks ago Muller came on board and said if you want to do this and take it seriously, we will give you the money to do it.”
Cockroft had plenty of empathy for the industry figures in the room as she joked about her naivety when it came to running events: “I was like ‘sweet, this won’t be hard at all’. How wrong was?! I didn’t realise how hard it was to book the track, get a licence, officials are even harder to find, all of it was difficult!
“We literally spent the last six weeks putting it together and last Saturday we held the inaugural Muller Para Track Grand Prix in Kirkby in Liverpool, we had 60 athletes and it was amazing.
“It was simply to give everyone who wants to race, a chance to race. It wasn’t just wheelchair racing, we had ambulant athletes too. It was incredible how many athletes came forward and said to us, ‘why has this never happened before? I’m here, I’m trying to train as hard as I can, but I don’t have the transport to get to London to compete’.”
Despite the success of the event Cockcroft is focussing on her own performance for the time being, amusing the crowd by declaring: “I will never run an event again in my life!”
The world record holder in the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m T34 sprints attributes her success to her training regime.
Cockroft explained: “It’s down to being a slave to your programme. I trust my coach, because I have no idea what I’m doing! I just get in the chair and I push it. I get in my chair every day and I push until it hurts too much and then I stop.
"I don’t like losing, I have a massive fear of losing, I don’t like coming second.”
Cockroft has renewed her determination to continue at the highest level of the sport, despite having some recent doubts, saying: “Last year I was on the verge of quitting, I fell out of love with the sport, I didn’t really want to race anymore.
"I got some other offers; I was a Countryfile presenter last year, it was great I went on a dolphin observation, visited a dairy farm, I did all sorts. Ultimately, at the end of all of it, I won my first silver medal, well actually I lost my first gold medal and that was a real wake up moment for me. That really hurt.
“So this year I worked hard and motivated myself, I’ve moved to Chester so I can train with a group. Previously I trained on my own, and now I train with a group of boys who don’t like being beaten by a girl so I have to go beat them.
“Now I’m probably in the best shape of my life.”
Cockroft is heading to the 2019 World Para Championships in Dubai in November along with her boyfriend Paralympian Nathan Maguire, and has her eyes firmly set on Tokyo next year.
Sport Industry Private Dining Club is an invitation-only members club that meets four times a year at some of the best venues in London, providing top level representatives from across the sport industry with the opportunity to network and socialise in an informal and relaxed setting.