The pandemic has had a profound effect on the way we’re living our lives, and we’re all missing things we used to take for granted. Nathalie McGloin and Hannah Cockroft MBE love racing around a track, but a second national lockdown has meant yet another dead end on the bumpy road that is 2020.
We’ve seen sporting events such as the Paralympics called off or postponed, breaking the hearts of sporting fans and competitors around the world. With gyms, sport centres and racing tracks closed once again, thousands of people who take part in disability sport up and down the country are feeling the frustration more than many.
However, the human race is nothing if not resilient, and instead of focusing on the negatives we’ve turned our living rooms, gardens and garages into gyms and grabbed tins of beans, water bottles and clothes detergent to use as weights. We’ve pushed through barriers to focus on a healthy mind and body during challenging times.
To highlight this drive and determination, we wanted to catch up with our ambassadors and two of Britain’s best female sports stars, Nathalie McGloin and Hannah Cockcroft MBE, after they were shortlisted for The Sunday Times Disabled Sportswoman of the Year Award, 2020.
They’ve been nominated alongside Dame Sarah Storey, Maria Lyle and Tully Kearney for one of the most sought after awards in the sporting calendar. Established in 1988, the Sportswoman of the Year Awards aims to recognise the tremendous contribution made by Britain’s most prominent sportswomen.
A special online ceremony will take place tonight (Wednesday 25 November) to honour the winners.
A virtual chat with Hannah and Nat
I’m sure you’ll both agree, 2020 has been an extraordinarily challenging year… how has it affected you and what positives have you been able to take out of it?
Nathalie: This year has been very different but I’ve definitely been able to take positives from it. Due to the travel restrictions, I’ve spent a lot of time at home both during lockdown and afterwards, which has allowed me to focus on my health and fitness routines. When you’re busy, I think it’s easy to get your priorities slightly misaligned and this time has allowed me to build a fitness programme that I can easily incorporate back into my routine once restrictions are lifted and I’m traveling again.
Hannah: 2020 hasn’t been at all what I planned or what I expected! Obviously, the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games was a massive hit for me, and it kind of took the rest of my year down with it. But really, I’ve just tried to find the positives this year, which at times has been difficult, as the negatives can easily outweigh them.
This year has given me the time to focus on all the little things in my training that I usually don’t have the time to. I’ve made changes in my technique, my training plan and my equipment that has made massive improvements in my overall performance. I’ve also, for the first time in years, found the bottom of my inbox. That felt like a pretty big victory!
One massive positive we’re sure you’ll both be able to take from this year is being nominated for The Sunday Times Disabled Sportswoman of the Year Award, how do you both feel about that?
Nathalie: Being nominated for the award came as a complete surprise to me. It’s given me a huge boost just as we have entered our second lockdown and will give me the extra motivation I need to brave the cold and continue with my fitness programmes. Being nominated alongside some incredible athletes is also a great honour and I’m truly humbled to be considered for this award alongside such decorated stars, such as you Hannah.
Hannah: It’s always a massive privilege to have your achievements recognised, but this year, more than any, is very special. I think with all the barriers that have been put in our way this year, from tracks and gyms being closed to the competition season being seriously reduced, to have even found the motivation to continue training and working towards a goal that keeps getting moved further away is an achievement. But there’s still been some amazing sporting feats happen this year, so it’s great to be seen as one of them! So let’s go back to where it all started, you’ve both been able to achieve wonderful things in disability sport, but how did you get into it?
Nathalie: Sport for me has always been a focus since I started university. Playing wheelchair rugby was the making of me after my spinal injury. Playing sport gave me so much more confidence because I was physically stronger and was able to regain much of the independence I lost after breaking my neck. It was through this confidence that I was able to consider new adventures, such as track driving, which ultimately led to me getting into racing. I was lucky that I was introduced to two sports that I absolutely fell in love with, but determination and self-belief are major factors when it comes to any kind of success in life.
Hannah: I started wheelchair racing when I was 15. Before that, I played wheelchair basketball and competed in the seated discus. I saw wheelchair racing on offer at a talent ID day I was invited to with British Athletics, and that was it for me; I jumped in the chair and never turned back. My only regret is that I didn’t find the sport sooner. Hannah, you’ve recently been able to get back out on the track and stuck into your training for the Tokyo Paralympics 2021, how will this be affected by the second lockdown?
Hannah: In all honesty, I’m not entirely sure yet. There has been suggestion that certain restrictions will be eased for professional athletes, so I’m hoping to still be able to access a track somehow. Other than that, it just means more time spent in my garage, which my boyfriend and I turned into a gym during the first lockdown, and more time spent on the roads. But it’s not so bad; my winter training is a lot more strength and endurance based, so it’s actually going to be easier this time to manipulate training to our surroundings. I just need the weather to give me a fair chance. Nathalie, tell us more about your role as the FIA Disability and Accessibility Commission President and how it came about?
Nathalie: My role with the FIA came about after I spoke about my views on the disabled licensing process and safety in disabled motorsport at the International Sports Conference in Geneva in 2017. Shortly after this, I was invited to the FIA offices in Paris and was offered the role of President of the newly formed FIA Disability and Accessibility Commission, which I accepted without hesitation.
My work with the FIA started in January of 2018 and we’ve been working hard since then to continue to ensure that Motorsport is accessible and safe for disabled people. We’re responsible for the legislation that facilitates disabled participation in the sport, as well as creating pathways in for novices through initiatives and grants. Our aim is to make motorsport so accessible that disabled kids can watch the Formula 1 and have ambitions to become racing drivers, because they’ve seen it can be done. I will continue to work hard to make this a reality.
Hannah, you were crowned the champion in the 400m during the Müller British Athletics Championships in September, another wonderful achievement, how did it feel to be back racing again?
Hannah: It was such an amazing feeling! It was slightly strange as there were so many new rules and regulations and procedures to go through before we could get out on the track, but once we were out there, it was just wonderful to be back doing what I love. Winning the race made it even more special as I was competing against a team mate that I had never beaten before (she races in a higher classification), so it was entirely unexpected to cross the line first. I can’t wait to race in front of a crowd again though.
Hannah - in September (what a month for you by the way) you were also able to beat all of your personal best times, in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m. That’s incredible, has it made you want to go even faster?
Hannah: Definitely! It’s great to know that even with the interruptions and the less than perfect preparation I’ve had this year, I could still make improvements, so imagine what I can do when I’m back with my coach and not stuck in my garage anymore. I know there’s more in me, so I’m excited to hopefully bring it out next year.
And finally to end on a really positive note - what are you both looking forward to in 2021?
Nathalie: I’m really looking forward to seeing my friends and family again, I miss my social interaction more than anything. I’m also really looking forward to traveling and going on holiday. And of course, I can’t wait to get back into a full season of racing. 2021 is going to be a good one, you heard it here first.
Hannah: The Paralympic Games of course, and hopefully having a full season of training camps and competitions. But more so than anything, just hoping everyone is able to be as fit and healthy as possible, and the world being a bit of a kinder place for everything that we’ve been through this year.
Thanks both of you for finding the time to catch up with us today and good luck with the awards – you’d both be very worthy winners.
Try our accessible workouts
During the first national lockdown we asked Hannah and Nathalie to share their home workouts with us. They’re accessible, simple to follow and you don’t need loads of equipment to join in.
With gyms closed and November bringing dark nights and cold weather, why not give these a try:
Remember, you should speak to your doctor before trying any new exercise routine. Always warm-up before doing any exercises and stop if you feel any pain.
Keep a track on our para-athletes
We’ll be working with Hannah and Nathalie throughout 2021 and will be sharing their stories on and off the track. In the meantime, you can keep up to date with their sporting achievements, training and find out more about their day-to-day lives on social media:
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