Irwin Mitchell ambassador and world-record holding wheelchair racer, “Hurricane” Hannah Cockroft, added to her overflowing gold-medal collection at this summer’s Commonwealth Games.
Finishing nearly a second ahead of her competitors, she completed the T33/34 women’s race in just 16.84 seconds.
We caught up with Hannah to find out more about her preparation, her thoughts on the Games, and her hopes for the future of athletics.
Firstly, congratulations on your Commonwealth Games gold medal. We thoroughly enjoyed staying up past our bedtime to watch you in action. How were the Games for you? What was the build-up like?
“It was an incredible experience, and winning the gold will take some beating.
This was actually my first experience of competing at a Commonwealth Games. I’d always wanted to compete but never had the opportunity to do so. When you’re 15 years into a career you don’t really get that many debuts come along, so I made sure I grabbed it with both hands.
I was nervous before the race. It promised to be really tough, as the gold, silver and bronze medallists from the Tokyo Paralympics were all competing. But I knew I’d trained well, and I’d pushed a world-lead time, and new personal best, a couple of weeks before. Unfortunately that couldn't stand as a world record because the competition wasn’t ratified by the International Paralympic Committee.”
We’ve had a presence in Birmingham for a number of years and were delighted to recently move into new offices at Colmore Circus. We think it’s a fantastic place with fantastic people. How did you find Britain’s second city?
“Visiting the world’s biggest Primark was amazing. I actually went to university in Coventry so we used to go into Birmingham on the train and do some shopping.
Going into the Games, I just wanted to get around and see as many sports as possible. The three-on-three wheelchair basketball made its Commonwealth Games debut, so that was a priority for me, and I’d never watched competitive swimming before.
We race all over the world so it was good to be back on home soil. I think it’s been the closest international championships to my home, and there’s nothing like competing in front of your own crowd. The noise we got was second to none.
I hope that everyone who attended enjoyed the Games, and what the country and Birmingham had to offer.”
Sometimes you can go for months without a competition. How do you resist Netflix binges and stay motivated in between meetings?
“That’s a good question. To be honest, you can’t rely on just motivation. I’m definitely not motivated every day. A lot of the time I wake up and I’m like: ‘you know what, I can’t be bothered. I don’t want to do this.’ Routine gets me through it. I train with a group three days a week and with a coach five days a week. It’s a habit. Making yourself accountable, and making sure that you’ve got people to go and see, forces you to do it.
Motivation comes in its own form. If I do well in a race then I want to do better next time, or at least make sure I equal my previous time. If I don’t do well in a race then the motivation is really obvious – I want to go and do better in the next one. Another massive motivation is enjoyment. I enjoy going out, meeting friends, and having a push. It motivates me to go and get it done.
I think motivation shows itself in lots of different ways.”
Because of the pandemic, we’ve got to enjoy the back-to-back summers of world-class athletics. What do you see as the biggest change or opportunity for athletics in the next 12 months?
“I think this year’s Commonwealth Games was the only integrated major international competition. This meant that the para-athletes were able to compete alongside the able-bodied athletes, with competitions running at the same time.
I’d like to see that extended outside of the Commonwealth Games. I’d like to see more para-athlete involvement in the Diamond Leagues, as well as in things like the British Championships, and in more able-bodied competitions in general. The more we can get out there and compete, the more we can build our audiences and get more people watching, and involved in, para-sport.
The girl I lined up against, Karé Adenegan, watched me at London 2012. She became my England teammate, and competed in Rio – winning three silvers and two bronze. It just goes to show that there’s loads of talent just sitting on the sofa at home not realising what’s actually available and possible for them. I hope that Birmingham showed them the amount opportunities that there are, and gave them the inspiration to grab them.
So I hope it really inspired people and made them want to take up some sport."
If someone’s reading this and thinking that they’d like to have a go, what advice do you have for them?
"I’d say don't tie yourself down to one sport straight away. There’s some amazing sports to try. I did wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, wheelchair tennis, seated discus… loads of things before I started wheelchair racing.
Just go out, explore, and say yes to every opportunity that you get offered. You might think that you’re going to be really good at one sport, then you pick up another and you're actually better at it or enjoy it more. But settle on the one you enjoy most, because passion is what makes you successful and nothing else.
If you don’t want to get up in the morning and do it then you’re not going to do it. More than 15 years on, I absolutely love what I do. I love getting up, challenging myself on the track, and seeing how fast I can go.”
And finally, what’ s the best thing about competing in athletics?
“The best thing about competing in athletics is the freedom. It’s being outside, getting on the track, and knowing that whatever achievement you get, it’s down to you.
We all talk about the teams behind us. I have so many people who support everything that I do, with Irwin Mitchell being one of them. But, when you’re out on that track, you’re the one making the chair go fast and setting the time. So for me, that sense of achievement is the best thing about athletics.
There’s nobody else to thank but yourself, but, at the same time, you have nobody else to blame but yourself if it doesn’t go right. I really like that sense of control and independence.”
For general enquiries
0370 1500 100
Or we can call you back at a time of your choice
Request a call back
Phone lines are open 24/7, 365 days a year