She might be a double world record holder and two-time Paralympic champion but Halifax’s Hannah Cockroft insists she won’t have it all her own way between now and Rio 2016 – and she couldn’t be happier about it.
Since she stormed to T34 100m and 200m gold at the London 2012 Paralympics, Cockroft has been nigh on untouchable.
A year later the 22-year-old retained the same world titles she won in New Zealand in 2011 while this year’s she won 100m and 800m gold at the European Championships in Swansea and also lowered her world records in both her sprint distances.
You could therefore be excused for already thinking that she is nailed on to add to her Paralympic crowns in Rio in a little under two years time, however Cockroft isn’t getting ahead of herself.
On these shores 14-year-old Kare Adenegan is proving to be one to watch, currently sitting sixth in the world rankings for both the 100m and 200m, while teenagers Alexa Halko of America and Desiree Vranken of Holland are also proving to be challengers to Cockroft’s throne.
All this means Cockroft is preparing herself for a much tougher time of things in Brazil – not that she minds at all.
“There is much more competition now which is great to see because that is what I need and want,” said Cockroft, who was speaking at a Get Set to Make a Change event, a programme that looks to keep the spirit of London 2012 alive.
“It is something I need to learn about, being challenged, because I am keen not to have it my own way which is how it has tended to be in recent years.
“The T34 class is still progressing really because it is such a new class and only really started getting big after the European Championships in 2011.
“There is now so much talent in the class and there are some really talented and tough girls who are still really young and are only going to get better.
“There will be a lot of fast and tough girls on that start line in Rio who will have done a lot of growing both physically and mentally between now and then.
“But I like to be challenged. It is nice they look up to me but I know they want to beat me to so I have to be on my guard and I will be.”
The road to Rio will gather pace for Cockroft next year when she travels to Doha in October for the 2015 World Championships.
She might arrive in Qatar as a four-time sprint champion – having also won 100m and 200m gold at the 2011 worlds in New Zealand – but it is the 800m title that Cockroft is eyeing up this time around.
“Next year is a bit of an upside down year really because the World Championships aren’t until October,” she added.
“That means I will have to do a full season and then start all over again and get back to full fitness for October which will be a bit strange but everyone is in the same boat.
“It is the first time I will be going for the 800m world title so it is an important one for me with Rio fast approaching.
“I have loads of new ideas and tactics in place and I have been training hard to make that happen and I am really excited about it. Being European 800m champion was the first challenge and this is the next one.”
Through GSTMC, the British Olympic Foundation, in conjunction with the British Paralympic Association is using the spirit of the London Games to re-inspire young people across the UK. The project is being supported by a £2.5m grant from the Big Lottery Fund’s Keeping the Spirit of 2012 Alive campaign. http://www.makeachange.org.uk/