Hannah Cockroft wins magnificent seventh gold at Tokyo Paralympics
There is no pleasing some people but class act Cockroft is often in a race with herself at these Games, banking her seventh career gold with a victory in the T34 800m at a rainy Olympic Stadium.
As close as it can be to a wheelchair racing certainty, Cockroft almost didn’t make the start line after catching herself in the spokes of her chair during warm-up, competing with her right hand heavily bandaged.
But as Tropical Storm Mirinae made landfall in Tokyo, there was just no stopping Hurricane Hannah, who took nearly 12 seconds off her Paralympic record from five years ago in a time of 1:48.99, one tenth off her world best from earlier this year.
“I’m absolutely gutted,” she joked. “I was so close that to world record, I couldn’t have got closer if I’d tried.
“I’m really happy with gold but I’m obviously a bit frustrated I couldn’t quite squeeze under that time. I did that time in Switzerland on the fastest track in the world, so to come here and nearly replicate it on a rainy day, I’ve got to be proud.
“I put my hand through the wheel while the chair was moving, I’ve never ever done that but I decided to do it today. It was pretty bloody but it’s fine.
“The doctors were leaning towards pulling me out but I was ‘no way’. Even if my hand had fallen off I was going to be on that start line.”
Team-mate Kare Adenegan took silver but she was nearly 11 seconds behind, Cockroft taking the lead from the gun and relentlessly building an advantage that was quickly insurmountable.
“In my mind, Kare is always right behind me,” she added. “She’s all I can hear and all I think’s there. I don’t give myself the time to look around but I was comfortable. I knew I was averaging 18mph which I’m fairly confident the other girls can’t hold.”
Adenegan is undoubtably Cockroft’s closest rival but she’s a long way back and the 29-year old is only getting faster, taking nearly 30 seconds off her best time over two laps in the last six years.
Fellow racer David Weir bemoaned the investment in British wheelchairs earlier this week, with Switzerland’s Marcel Hug working with Sauber’s F1 team to design the perfect carbon fibre chariot.
Cockroft wants more money for development too, though you have to wonder how much more she’d win by if you added an appliance of science to her peerless racing skills? However, she credits a new pair of gloves, manufactured on a team-mate’s 3D printer with her best-ever season of times and results.
“This chair has barely changed since I started racing, there’s no investment in it,” she added. “It’s the best it can be but it’s not aerodynamic. I’d love to get involved in the tech side and find out how much quicker I can go.”
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