Tokyo Paralympics: Times matter less than medals for thrill-seeking Hannah Cockroft

HANNAH Cockroft’s hotel room in Tokyo looks out on a theme park, with rollercoasters and log flumes, tantalisingly out of reach for the Paralympic thrill seeker.

Hannah Cockroft, pictured in action in the Women's 800m T34 at the World Para Athletics Championships 2019 in Dubai in November 2019. Picture: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

The challenge for Cockroft is simple – get her kicks from going fast on the track.

“When it goes right, it feels like flying,” said the five-time Paralympic champion.

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Whenever the 29-year-old races, history is made. She broke three wheelchair racing world records in a day in May, meaning she holds all five from 100m up to 1500m.

LEGEND: Hannah Cockroft. Picture: Simon Cooper/PA

Cockroft’s wheels had barely touched Tokyo tarmac before she was breaking new ground in training, suggesting her own T34 records are under threat over 100m and 800m.

“I hit a new top speed on the track the other day,” said Cockroft, recorded at 20.2mph.

“That’s a massive confidence boost. Nathan (Maguire, partner and fellow wheelchair racer) and I train together every day and I’m getting closer and closer to beating him.”

In a parallel universe, Cockroft became the first British athlete to race at the Olympic Stadium in 2019, alongside Usain Bolt at a grand opening in front of a 60,000 crowd.

Paralympic athlete Hannah Cockroft finishes the Leeds Run For All. Picture: Tony Johnson.

“It’s an incredible track,” said Cockroft. “It will be empty, which is sad, but I think we’re going to see some really fast times for wheelchair racing. Hopefully they’re mine but if not mine, someone else’s.

“I expect records to tumble everywhere. People have used the extra year’s training to their advantage, so we’re going to see some amazing, amazing things.”

Times are one thing, but this quick-witted West Yorkshire native has medals on the mind. Defending her Paralympic 100m and 800m titles are the priority.

“My old coach once said to me that everyone remembers medals, no-one remembers times,” added Cockroft, who defends her 100m title in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

“I always try to remember that it’s so easy to get caught up in wanting to get to a specific time. You just need to let the process happen.

“What I’m here for is the gold medals. I’ve spent all year doing rapid times and breaking world records, so that job has been done. I just want to get that ribbon around my neck now and get on that podium.”

Only one T34 racer has ever beaten Cockroft – her long-time rival and compatriot Kare Adenegan, who has done it three times, and will loom large again in Tokyo.

Indeed, there is a live chance of a British podium sweep in the 100m with Paralympic debutant Fabienne Andrew fancied for a medal.

Cockroft said: “I think it’s fantastic, it’s awesome we’re bringing through such strong girls.

“Kare and I have had a rivalry for quite a few years now, that’s nothing new. Fabs is still new.

“Hopefully it inspires other nations to bring their own girls through, so we can beat them all.”

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