Hannah Cockroft MBE prepares for her Great Yorkshire Show catwalk debut and talks to Stephanie Smith about the difficulties she finds when seeking out the fashions she loves.
Five-time Paralympic gold medallist Hannah Cockroft MBE broke her own 400m world record in Switzerland last month, but back home, simply shopping for clothes can be a challenge strewn with obstacles and pitfalls.
“Shopping is hard,” she says. “The rails are too full or too close together, so you are having to move things out of the way for yourself.”
Hannah, 26, from Halifax, says it’s incredible how many shops use their disabled changing rooms and even their lifts as storage space.
“The amount of times that we go and we can’t get upstairs, we can’t try something on, we can’t get between the rails – a lot of shops are like that and it can be really frustrating, because technically they are turning away your custom for something so simple. You have the facilities there, just use them.”
Hannah found no such problems at Sandersons department store, Fox Valley, Stocksbridge, near Sheffield, on her visit to choose outfits to model on the celebrity catwalk at the Great Yorkshire Show.
“There’s loads of rooms between the rails so you can get around easily, there’s a lift so you can get upstairs, the changing rooms are big and you can get in any of them, which is good because the amount of times that you go shopping and there’s someone with a buggy in the disabled changing room is everyday – it’s annoying.”
Hannah was joined by her boyfriend, fellow athlete and Team GB wheelchair racer Nathan Maguire, and his sister Sarah, who helped with styling advice.
“I pretty much live in training kit, tracksuits, GB kit,” says Hannah. “As an athlete, you’re training every day or you’re visiting schools, so that’s what people expect and want you to wear. I do love the opportunity to put on a nice dress and go out and be Hannah, and not Hannah the Athlete.”
Hannah needs four different wardrobes. She says: “You’ve got your training wardrobe, your everyday going-to-the-shops wardrobe, and then you’ve got to have your formal wardrobe – I’ve been to Buckingham Palace five times. And then you’ve got to have the more business attire.
“For me, it’s quite difficult because I can walk a little bit as well as be in my wheelchair,” she adds. “I have a severe lordosis of the spine, so my spine curves inwards. It can sometimes make you look a lot bigger than you are.
“But then, if I stand up and wear a dress, for example, if it really sits into my curve, I don’t like it because it exaggerates my disability.”
Hannah’s favourite dress is one she wore in 2013 when she was nominated for Sports Personality of the Year.
“It’s bright red, it’s got a halter neck and a lacy red top and it goes into a really long, straight, fitted skirt, so it fits with my wheelchair quite well, I can move in it because my shoulders are free and it still shows off my figure. It makes me feel really confident.”
Whizz-Kidz, the charity which provides disabled children with mobility equipment, has advised Fox Valley retail park on accessibility. Hannah is a patron and Whizz-Kidz provided her with her first sports wheelchair. “So they are to thank for the many things that came after that,” she says.
Meanwhile Hannah looks forward to joining her friend, sporting soprano Lizzie Jones, on the Great Yorkshire Show catwalk.
“Just walking around the show, it makes you really proud to be from Yorkshire, and there’s just so much to see. Everyone is happy to be there. I love it. It’s such a good day,” she says.
She has just bought her first home near Chester and is now preparing for the World Championships in November. She says: “I’m in the gym twice a week and then in the chair six days a week. It’s a life in training kit. I live in leggings and training tops but that’s the life I chose.”
* The 161st Great Yorkshire Show will be held from Tuesday, July 9 to Thursday, July 11 at the Great Yorkshire Showground in Harrogate. Tickets for the show are on sale at https://greatyorkshireshow.co.uk/ticket-information
* The Kuoni Catwalk will take place on each day of the show at 11am, 12.30pm, 2.30pm and 4pm, with a one-off celebrity special on the Tuesday at 2.30pm.
* The show will be produced by Bernadette Gledhill with hair and make-up by students from the White Rose Beauty Colleges from across Yorkshire.