The Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games took the sporting calendar by storm, so we sat down with multi Gold medal-winning wheelchair racer, Hannah Cockroft! Hannah is one of Team GB’s most successful Paralympians, a title that makes her an empowering presence at motivational corporate events.
Olympic and Paralympic speakers are powerful motivators at events. Their unique insight into peak performance ignites a team’s passion, leading to innovation and resilience in the workplace. Speakers like Hannah supply experience-driven guidance for staying calm under pressure, influenced by her experience in high-level competing.
Discover Hannah’s ambitions for the Tokyo Olympic Games and the skills needed to succeed as a wheelchair racer, in our latest official interview.
Q: What are your ambitions for Tokyo 2021?
“My goal for [2021 Tokyo Olympic Games] - two Gold medals in the 100 and 800 metres! They will both be titles that I hopefully retain, as I hold both titles from [2016 Rio Olympic Games].
“The last year has been like nothing else, at the beginning when it was first announced that the Games were going to be postponed almost a year ago, I was the one in the house that cried. I was absolutely devastated. I'm 28 now, so I'm getting on a bit as this sport doesn't last forever. So I was upset, but I had to make a decision pretty quickly.
“Was I going to do what some athletes and take the year off, just enjoy a year of rest, or was I going to push on? And that's what I decided to do. So, I had to be pretty creative with my training, obviously, with tracks closed and gyms shut, that's where the majority of my training takes place.
“So, we built a gym in the garage and then we literally have pushed every single road in our local area to try and find the best flat roads that we can keep training on - it was a lot easier at the start of lockdown, people weren't really going out. The roads are really quiet, but it's getting harder now because there are more people out in their cars.
“We've also got a roller. It's like a big drum that you put the race chair on, and it means I can push, push and push and push and go nowhere. So it's not my ideal idea of training, but it’s kept me going through the last year.”
Q: What specific physical and mental skills are necessary to thrive as a wheelchair racer?
“Strength, which is really important in every sport. I think specifically as a wheelchair race, physically, you have to have good reaction times, which is something that I actually really struggled with - I have brain damage which does really seriously affect my reaction time.
“I think mentally, patience is a massive one. You're not going to see your games happen overnight, you know, sometimes you don't even see them happen in weeks or months. You've got to be really, really patient and just believe that the work you're doing is working.
“You've got to be resilient. It's a word that a lot of people have used this year, but it's really been important, you know, to overcome challenges and - even sometimes to just get around the race! An 800-metre race is two laps around the track, which for an 800-meter racer is quite a long way, so you've got to be resilient when the burn kicks in.”
Q: What do diversity and inclusion mean to you?
“I think everyone, obviously, everyone deserves a chance; regardless of gender, disability, race, whatever it might be, everyone deserves their opportunity in life. I think as a disabled female, I grew up seeing nobody like me - I was five years old and had never met another disabled person, I thought I was the only person in the world in a wheelchair.
“That, in a nutshell, is why diversity and inclusion are important. I think you've got to see it if you want to be it. You have to know that it's out there. And the fact that I couldn't see it is why it took me so long to get there, I just always think to myself, ‘imagine if I’d known what the Paralympics were, imagine if I had seen Parasport before I was 12 [years old]’. Who knows what I could have done at this point?
“I think the most important thing is I want to get to a point where actually diversity and inclusion, they're just nothing, they're not even thought about because they just happen naturally.”
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