Lyon 2013
IPC Athletics World Championships
19-29 July

Graham Cockroft: What has (or hasn't!) changed

Hannah Cockroft’s father on what it was like for him seeing his daughter win gold at London 2012, and what has changed going into Lyon 2013. 13 Jul 2013
Imagen
A picture of women on a podium with medals around their neck

Hannah Cockroft of Great Britain celebrate winning gold medals in the Women's 200m T34 Wheelchair Final with Dutch silver and bronze medallists Amy Siemons and Desiree Vranken at the London Paralympics

ⒸGetty Images
By Graham Cockroft

The actual race was like a dream. We joined 80,000 people willing her on. I was hoarse with shouting and have to admit to the odd tear. I was so proud as she belted out the national anthem on the podium - that's my girl.

If anyone had told me in the early years of her life that my daughter would become a World Champion, travel the world and represent her country in the Paralympics, I would have thought they were crazy. Yet fast forward fifteen years and there I am screaming my head off along with 80,000 others as she tears up the track at the Olympic Stadium in London.

It has never been easy for Hannah. We nearly lost her twice then had years of physiotherapy, visits to hospitals, numerous tests, equipment and contraptions and lots of tears. But there was always a steely determination about her. If anyone dared to tell her she couldn't do something she would find a way to prove them wrong! Many minor battles were fought to give her the same opportunities her brothers had, with just as many supportive professionals as there were negative ones. After being introduced to disabled sport she had a go at wheelchair racing and she was away.

Hannah’s sport is much more time consuming than her brothers’ archery and rugby. I coached her for a while but two strongly determined minds clashed! I chauffeured her about, cycled behind her on the roads, provided technical support and built an indoor roller (a sort of treadmill for her chair) when the weather was too bad. We had to redesign the house for all her wheels and paraphernalia and I even ran a 10km race to help build funds for her own racing wheelchair. Literally putting in blood, sweat and tears.

But she became a member of UK Athletics and got her own coach and professional support. After winning at the 2011 World Champs in Christchurch, Hannah had to juggle study and serious training - the blood sweat and tears were now hers!

But at London 2012 finally all the hard work started to pay off. Our seats in the Olympic Stadium were up in the Gods but we were surrounded by family and when she came out to warm up, everyone laughed at me as I shouted instructions, as I usually do, forgetting where we were and that she hadn't a hope of hearing me.

The actual race was like a dream. We joined 80,000 people willing her on. I was hoarse with shouting and have to admit to the odd tear. I was so proud as she belted out the national anthem on the podium - that's my girl.

Since then her feet haven't touched the ground. She is a household name with her own nickname, the media seem to love her and she has had some amazing opportunities.

But life goes on. I still have to work and at times it’s difficult to synchronise the family calendar with her training and commitments. I am very proud of her achievements but she is still my cantankerous daughter who has all the answers and is a nightmare at organising her time. She's got two faces - the public face as a brilliant public speaker, an inspiration to others and vibrant and happy in public – then a moody teenager who won’t get out of bed and says "what do you know Dad?"

Indeed what do I know? With fame comes all the trappings that go over my head. She has an agent, media advisor, accountant and another fabulous coach. British Athletics take good care of her.

I am just sat on the side of the track, cycling behind her in the hills in all weathers … and chauffeuring her to distant tracks. So for me not much has changed.