During the London 2012 Paralympics, ‘Hurricane’ Hannah came into the spotlight for her amazing performance and domination of the T34 events. If you’ve never watched wheelchair racing I urge you to do so as the true grit and determination combined with raw skill will hook you immediately. If that wasn’t enough, watching ‘Hurricane’ Hannah race round the track will show you just how eye-catching the sport is.
I have chosen Cockroft for Sportswoman in the Spotlight this week as her story came to my attention and I’m sure you, like me, will find it inspiring. Not even a full two days after being born Cockroft experienced two cardiac arrests causing severe damage to her brain and life-altering deformity in her legs, feet and hips. Doctors told her that she would never walk again. But this young girl was not going to listen to what she was told, she was going to prove to everyone that she could achieve the impossible, something she continues to do today. At three years old she took her first steps undeterred by what doctors had told her. This was not the end to the problems and struggles that Cockroft faced. Walking in fact caused more problems with mobility and balance. But once again Cockroft fighting spirit came out and this wouldn’t stop her reaching for success.
Cockroft was first introduced to wheelchair basketball by her PE teacher at aged 13 which began her sporting career when she joined a disabled sports club. Competing in seated discus and winning several medals at the UK School Games meant she was invited to UK Athletes ID Day where she had her first taste of wheelchair racing. She never looked back.
In 2010 she started to break world records. In fact she broke seven world records in eight days and in the same week became prom queen and passed all of her A-Levels. Cockroft first represented GB in 2011 where she made her debut performance in the PIC World Athletics championships bringing home two golds. It wasn’t until 2012 that most of us saw Cockroft race for the first time as she came into the spotlight during the London Olympic Games. Cockroft dominated the T34 sprints gaining the title of champion in the 100m and 200m. It is unsurprsining to learn that this is where her nickname of ‘Hurricane Hannah’ was born from. Currently ‘Hurricane Hannah’ is the world number one and holds the world record in all four T34 short distance events of the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m. For her outstanding services to sport ‘Hurricane Hannah’ received an MBE in the 2013 New Years Honours list. Her successes continued after London 2012. In 2013 she became the world champion of the T34 100m and 200m. In 2014 she held onto her 100m world champion title, losing out in the 200m but gaining the 400m and 800m title instead. At the Rio Olympics last year once again ‘Hurricane Hannah’ took to the track to show us how well she thrives under pressure to take home three Paralympic gold medals for Team GB in the 100m, 400m and 800m.
Cockroft has overcome huge barriers to be the inspirational sporting success she is today. However not only is Cockroft phenomenal on the track but she is also inspiring others through her sporting achievements but also through her charity work in order to help get as many people of any disability, age and gender involved in sport. Cockroft is an ambassador to the Forget me not Children’s Hospice, The 53 Foundation, Youth Sport Trust, The Jane Tomlinson Appeal, Spidery, Whizz Kids and The Women’s Sport Trust.
Hurricane Hannah is an inspiration to so many and shows no sign in slowing. She is completely dominating her sport. The next few years and especially leading up to 2020 Tokyo Olympics it will be amazing to see how Hurricane Hannah will progress. Hopefully we will get to see her winning even more European and World titles.