In the twenty second episode of season three of the Her Spirit podcast BBC Breakfast Louise Minchin and BBC Triathlon presenter Annie Emmerson talk to five-time Paralympic Champion, and one of Britain’s best-known para-athletes Hannah Cockcroft MBE.
Hannah suffered two heart attacks within the first 24 hours of her life. These cardiac arrests left her with multiple areas of brain damage and a collapsed lung, with doctors questioning how the damage would affect her quality of life.
Yet, the problematic birth only helped in making Hannah a determined child. Raised alongside her brothers, Joshua and Daniel, she was never treated any differently to her able-bodied siblings. Hannah’s parents, Graham and Rachel, took every opportunity they could to get Hannah up onto her feet, strapping her into Kay-walkers, splints, twisters and standing frames.
Hannah was first introduced to para-sport at 12 years old, when the Cardinals wheelchair basketball team performed a demonstration at her secondary school. From this moment, she was hooked. At the 2007 School Games, run by the Youth Sports Trust, Hannah first witnessed wheelchair racing, whilst she competed for Yorkshire as a seated discus athlete. Invited to try out racing later that year at a British Athletics talent ID day, Dr Ian Thompson, husband of Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, put her in her first racing wheelchair and ran her through her first laps of the athletics track.
Hannah made her senior debut for Great Britain at 18 years old, representing her country at the World Championships in New Zealand in January 2011. Despite having only been competing for three years, Hannah became double World Champion, in the T34 100m and 200m.
The following summer, the world saw Hannah Cockroft line up at her debut Paralympics, the London 2012 Games. Cockroft took the world stage by storm, racing to victory over the T34 100m and 200m once again and setting two Paralympic Records in the process. Having become double Paralympic Champion on the home stage she was dubbed ‘Hurricane Hannah’ by the British media. An MBE followed in the 2013 New Years’ Honours.
Since then, Hannah’s lists of achievements have continued to grow. Hannah is the most decorated British athlete in World Championship history, with 12 World Champion titles to her name. She repeated her Paralympic success at Rio 2016, bringing home gold in the T34 100m, 400m and 800m, that same year adding three European Champion gold medals to her trophy cabinet. Hannah is currently the T34 World Record holder in the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m.
Off the track, Hannah’s personality has seen her invited onto shows such as ‘The Great British Bake Off’, ‘The Crystal Maze’ and ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, which she won with her partner on the show, Pasha.
Hannah is also an ambassador for Run For All https://www.runforall.com.
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Hear from mum-of-two Sarah about how running changed her life in her fifties and how much the Her Spirit community means to her.
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