Hannah Cockroft relishing whole new coaching challenge

The seven-time Paralympic gold medallist started coaching during the pandemic and hopes her new student will eventually eclipse her one day

By Alec McQuarrie

Hannah Cockroft has conquered the world umpteen times over but now she is getting to grips with a whole new challenge.

The seven-time Paralympic champion from Halifax has been coaching 17-year-old T54 wheelchair racer Anya Waugh since September 2020.

The pair met when Waugh was just seven, and Cockroft has seen the youngster from Stalybridge go from strength to strength under her tutelage.

And Cockroft, who was speaking at the launch of ParalympicsGB’s new initiative Every Body Moves powered by Toyota, was proud as punch with her student’s progress.

“Coaching is definitely a challenge,” said Cockroft. “It’s really interesting and exciting seeing the talent that’s coming through.

“My lockdown project was my coaching exams and here we are!”

“Hopefully we’ll see big things from it. But most importantly, she enjoys it and that’s all I care about.

“I don’t care if she wants to be Paralympic champion or not as long as she’s out there having fun then I’m doing the right thing.”

The pair raced at Waugh’s first British Athletics Championships three years ago and the teenager made her Diamond League debut in Birmingham last April.

And having knocked off almost two seconds from her 100m personal best, and nearly 17 from her 800m, Cockroft is delighted to start building a material legacy from her medal-laden career.

Cockroft said: “To be able to put her on those big stages and talk her through it, passing on some of the advice I’ve been lucky enough to acquire over my career makes me feel it was all worth it.

“It’s going somewhere. It’s not all just going to leave the sport when I leave it.”

Cockroft set four more world records in three days at the beginning of this season, including extending her 800m personal best to 1:44.43 – a British able-bodied and disabled record, in all categories.

And the 12-time world champion is hoping that Waugh can start putting those times under threat in the not-too-distant future.

“I’m sure she is aiming for my world records,” said Cockroft. “But you know what? All the power to her, go for it.

“World records are there to be broken, times are there to be beat.

Jonnie Peacock and fellow Paralympic champion Hannah Cockroft were present at the launch of Every Body Moves powered by Toyota on Monday
Jonnie Peacock and fellow Paralympic champion Hannah Cockroft were present at the launch of Every Body Moves powered by Toyota on Monday (British Paralympic Association)

“I would love to see girls go quicker than me because it means that you’ve inspired someone and you’ve made them believe that they can do it.”

Cockroft and fellow Paralympic champion Jonnie Peacock attended the launch of Every Body Moves powered by Toyota on Monday

Every Body Moves is an evolution of the award-winning Parasport powered by Toyota platform which has grown to become the nation’s largest online destination connecting people with thousands of inclusive sporting and physical activities.

Cockroft said the initiative would bring new possibilities to those, like Waugh, looking to emulate her unprecedented success.

Cockroft said: “For so long, it’s been so difficult and there have been so many doors shut in disabled people’s faces, in terms of how you get fit, how you get active.

“Today those doors are finally opening and hopefully people are realising they can do anything they want to do, get active and get moving.

“There was nothing like this when I was younger and I really, really wish there was. It is a game-changer because it would have been for me growing up, definitely.”