halifax’s double Paralympic champion Hannah Cockroft is confident Britain will not only reach their medal target in Rio but will “blow it out of the water”.
UK Sport has challenged Paralympics GB to improve on their haul at London 2012 by winning at least 121 medals this summer. The team took 120 four years ago, comprising 34 gold, 43 silver and 43 bronze.
Cockroft won two of those golds in the women’s 100m T34 and 200m T34, and the 23-year-old believes this squad heading to Brazil can do even better.
“We’ve got so much talent I think we can blow that target out of the water,” said sprinter Cockroft.
“Since London, our team, especially in athletics, has so much new talent, so many world record-holders now, who were sat at home in London 2012 being told they couldn’t join in with sport. We have talented relay teams, individuals, multi-eventers. We just have such an incredible team at the moment.
“If we all pull through and match our potential I think we can go a long way above that target.”
Much of the focus in the build-up to the Games has been on the Zika virus, which has been linked to causing defects in new-born babies and has become prevalent in north-east Brazil.
Government advice in February recommended pregnant women postpone any non-essential travel to areas affected by Zika while the British Olympic Association has been issuing advice to athletes.
Several high-profile golfers have pulled out of the Games citing fears about the virus but Cockroft, who visited Rio in March, is unconcerned.
“It has never crossed my mind not to go – I’ve worked too hard over four years to miss this,” continued Cockroft.
“We have incredible medical teams behind us an if it was too dangerous they would not send us. They look after us too well.
“We’ve been given precautions, about sprays and jabs, but I went out in March and I followed all those rules and nobody there cares. We were there for 10 days and I got one bite. I am not worried about this at all. I also don’t want a kid in the next four years!”
Cockroft will be taking on three individual events as she bids to retain her 100m title as well as winning the 400m and 800m in the T34 category.
She lost only one race last year and she also holds the Paralympic and world records in both the 100m T34 and 200m T34. “I’ve won everything there is to win and the motivation now is to retain that. It’s amazing to win once but you prove yourself as a better athlete if you go and do it again.”