Cockroft breaks T34 100m world record to claim sixth Paralympic gold
The restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic meant Hannah Cockroft had to undertake a chunk of her training in a greenhouse but the 29-year-old athlete coped seamlessly with the transition from back garden to Tokyo Olympic Stadium, taking her Paralympic gold medal tally to six with a world-record-breaking victory in the T34 100m.
For Cockroft – who also won the event at London 2012 and in Rio – victory in a time of 16.39sec, earned the hard way, clawing back her fast-starting ParalympicsGB teammate Kare Adenegan, produced an outpouring of emotion.
“I’m relieved, excited. I’ve already cried and I’m not a crier,” she said. “I can’t believe it. There has been so much pressure and insecurity around this whole Games. It was on, it was off; family can come, family can’t come. We’ve just been waiting, not knowing what to expect. To get out there, put that time down, I can’t believe it. I did not think I was capable of that time.”
Cockroft was undoubtedly the pre-race favourite, having set new records in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m in Switzerland in May, but said the buildup to Tokyo had been anything but smooth.
“It’s been a rough couple of years,” she said. “We plan everything down to a tee and I’m not very good if I don’t know what is going on. I really struggled with that. I made the decision to keep training, put everything I had into it. We put a gym in the garage, we trained in the greenhouse before we came here. We have had to do things I don’t think elite athletes have ever had to do.
“It just goes to show if you want it that bad, you can get out and do it. The hardest bit is being here without my family. I travel a lot without them, but they’ve never missed a Games. That’s the bit that got me out there – it’s quiet, very, very empty, and I don’t know if I enjoyed that part of it.”
The 800m provides an opportunity to add a seventh gold next Saturday, which would see Cockroft move to within four medals of Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson’s British track-and-field record of 11, which she won between 1992 and 2004.
“I’m halfway and I’m three Games in,” she said. “I’m 29, guys. I don’t know if I can do another three Games. It’s there, it’s in the distance. This sport has changed so much since Tanni. She left a legacy, we just have to keep bringing more young girls into the sport. If I have to keep beating them, awesome.”
In addition to Adenegan’s silver, Maria Lyle won a bronze in the women’s T35 200m, adding to the bronze she won in the 100m event, but there was disappointment for Samantha Kinghorn, who finished fourth in the women’s T53 800m by just 0.04sec.
Away from the stadium, ParalympicsGB’s Lauren Steadman made amends for her heartbreaking mistake at the 2016 Games with a gold in the women’s PTS5 triathlon.
Five years ago Steadman missed out on gold after swimming in the wrong direction during the race in Rio but this time around she was peerless, finishing 41 seconds clear of the American Grace Norman.
“That’s massive redemption,” said Steadman. “I was devastated after Rio, I was really destroyed, I didn’t go anywhere near my bike, my shoes or my swimsuit for seven months. My coach told me: ‘You’re not done yet.’ I put all my faith in him and he got me there.
“Before Rio I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders and it really got to me. This time I knew the pressure was there but because Rio was a terrible experience, I was determined to just enjoy this regardless of whether I got a medal or not.”
Steadman’s ParalympicsGB teammate Claire Cashmore picked up a bronze, while George Peasgood won silver in the men’s event, finishing 45 seconds behind Martin Schulz of Germany, while Canada’s Stefan Daniel took bronze.