“For me to have been supported by The National Lottery for the last 12 years is absolutely massive.”
Hannah Cockroft believes the Paris 2024 Paralympics could be the best since London 2012 and hopes the Games can reignite momentum behind the para sport movement.
Cockroft’s pair of golds 11 years ago saw her become one of the faces of the home Games that received unprecedented TV coverage on Channel 4 and record crowds at events.
But the seven-time Paralympic champion admits she feels para sport has not moved on from the heights it reached over a decade ago, where crowds of 80,000 watched the Paralympic athletics programme and she and others like Jonnie Peacock became household names.
Cockroft grabbed World Championship gold medals number 13 and 14 in Paris this month but those wanting to tune in could only do so via Channel 4’s YouTube channel.
The 30-year-old called for a return to the levels of support seen in 2012 and is hopeful next year’s Paralympics can be the perfect launchpad to do so.
“The 2012 Games were just so monumental that it was hard to go any higher than that, and the only way to go was backwards,” she said.
“We don’t get the TV coverage that we got around 2012, we definitely don’t have the sponsorship that was around and they are the things that need to come back.
“Paris 2024 is the time do to that. I think Paris could be massive, it could be bigger than London 2012. It is a real opportunity to get para sport out there.
“The time difference isn’t that big, it is close for Great Britain and it means people can come and watch, fill the stands and we can go back to having those massive crowds.
“Crowds of 80,000 people a day at London 2012 just hasn’t been seen since. That’s sad, I want it to come back, I don’t want to say London 2012 was the best Games of my life, I want to move on.
“For that to happen, we need the audiences. We need people to come and enjoy watching para sport, which we all know they do, they just need to know when and where.
“We need the coverage to come back to things like the World Championships and smaller events, so the bigger events are well attended.
“There is nothing better than competing in front of a sold-out crowd. It makes the younger generation think ‘I want to do that, that looks amazing.’”
Cockroft is one of over 1,000 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing her to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering medical support – this is vital for her pathway to the Paris 2024 Games.
Cockroft’s two golds – alongside silver – in the universal relay in Paris last week were part of a successful World Championships for Great Britain that saw a fourth-place finish in the medal table.
It continued Cockroft’s dominance of the sport which has lasted well-over a decade and was perfect preparation for her return to the same city next summer, where she will bid to add to her scintillating seven triumphs in the T34 100m and 800m.
Gold in the 100m in Paris was part of a British podium sweep alongside Kare Adenegan and Fabienne André, and Cockroft will look to use all her experience once again to fend off two athletes who were inspired into the sport by her 2012 exploits.
“The target is always gold, I can’t slide back from that, it’s what I want,” she added. “The minute I stop wanting that, I’ll probably leave the sport.
“I am definitely one of the old girls on the team now but to still be on top is a bit of a privilege, to still have everything working out. It was really nice to share the podium with Kare and Fabienne, it was Fabs’ first-ever international podium.
“Crossing the line was exciting and then turning around to see her crossing the line and the excitement on her face was just the absolute best bit.
"I am really proud that I can still be on top after all this time and I am still enjoying it.
“It is amazing to see so many younger girls come through now. When they sit on the podium and say they watched me at 2012, I feel ancient!
“I don’t know if that’s my favourite part but it is incredible to see. I was a 15-year-old girl sat at home still being told that she couldn’t do sport. It is amazing now that young people can see what we do, see us on that podium."
With the Paris 2024 Paralympics only one year away, the Games are set to inspire people and communities all across the country. Cockroft hopes that by sharing her story it will give others motivation to get involved into sport.
“For me to have been supported by The National Lottery for the last 12 years is absolutely massive,” she added.
“I definitely wouldn’t be a 14-time world champion without that support and that has always been the one consistent thing.
“It means that we can go out and train everyday and afford the equipment and anything else we might need.
“It means we can give 100% to athletics which a lot of countries don’t have that support. We can come and train at prime times, surrounded by the best coaches and teams.”
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