Inspiring Yorkshire heroes in focus: Hannah Cockroft

Hannah Cockroft. PIC: PA
Hannah Cockroft. PIC: PA
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There are few braver, more pioneering souls in Yorkshire than wheelchair athlete Hannah Cockroft.

‘Hurricane Hannah’ as she is known, survived two cardiac arrests at birth on July 30, 1992, which damaged two different parts of her brain.

It left her with a disability that affected her balance and mobility, and lef her with problems with fine motor skills as well as weak hips and deformed feet and legs.

Given her parents were told their daughter would not live past her teenage years, that 26 years later she is a five-time Paralympic champion and world champion on 10 further occasions, is an astonishing accomplishment.

And she is a gregarious, larger-than-life personality to boot, the kind of person who lights up a room when she enters, and for whom Yorkshire has played an integral role in her life.

“We live in the hills above Halifax and if you drive along Roils Head Road, you can look across the valley and see for miles,” enthuses Cockroft. “Looking out towards Hebden Bridge takes my breath away,

particularly on a sunny day when the heather’s out. I’m lucky to live up here.”

Yorkshire has been vital in the life of the most successful Paralympian of her generation, through her adolescent years when she was trying different sports, to the local facilities that have embraced her need

for speed and given her the platform on which to build her fearsome reputation.

That was forged at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, when Cockroft won gold in the T34 100m wheelchair sprint and followed it up a week later with a second Paralympic title in the 200m.

Four years later, having dominated both distances in the intervening years, Cockroft expanded her track programme and won three more gold medals in the T34 100m, 400m and 800m races in Rio.

“I travel a lot, but Yorkshire is so different to anywhere in the world,” she says.

“The people are so friendly, they look you in the eye and are helpful. Every time I come home, I’m happy because it has not changed. The views are beautiful.