British fans will be spoilt for choice when it comes to the women’s T38 sprints at the World Para Athletics Championships, which get underway on Friday 14 July.
Sophie Hahn, Kadeena Cox and Olivia Breen will take to the track in the 100m, while Hahn and Cox also do battle over 200m. Cox races too over one lap – the event she won at the Rio Paralympic Games last year.
We caught up with Cox to find out just what she makes of the rivalries that are in store for her in London – as well as what it felt like when she found out her world and Paralympic medals, which had been stolen from her car in June, were returned to a local police station two weeks later.
IPC: We are delighted to hear your medals were returned - did the experience underline to you just how much the sport meant to you?
Cox: Yeah, the medals mean so much – you work so hard for them. They might not be worth very much but they still mean the world to you and I think a lot of people appreciated that. I also realised the power of social media. I think probably one of the main reasons I got them back was because of all the Tweeting.
How hard was it to stay focused on training during those two weeks without your medals?
I really tried to focus on training and getting ready for ‘the next’ world medals but it was playing on my mind because I got to the point where I thought I wasn’t going to get them back. I was kind of stressed about it but my Mum was like ‘Don’t worry about it Kadeena, it will all be sorted. Focus on training because you can’t do anything about it.’ I think I did quite a good job and tried not to think about it.
You competed in track cycling as well as Para athletics at Rio 2016, winning time trial gold too. Has it been easier this year solely focusing on athletics?
It actually hasn’t – I started back in university in March doing a physio degree and I’ve been on placement so it’s been like working a full-time job and trying to fit training around that. The bike actually really helps with my 400m strength and I’ve missed out on that so we ended up putting in some sessions in the last six to eight weeks just to supplement that. I think I worked better doing the two sports!
Sophie is the reigning World, Paralympic and European champion in the 100m T38 – and the world record holder. What elements of her race do you think are particularly strong?
The bonus Sophie’s got is she’s so petite. She drives forward really well and she’s really good at starting because she is so light. I am a powerful athlete – if you look at me and Sophie together you wouldn’t believe we could do the same event because we are so different. I take a lot of time to put the power through the ground rather than doing the really fast steps that she does but if I can drive out the blocks well I know the back end of my race is going to be strong.
Have you raced each other much domestically?
I raced Sophie earlier in the season in Dubai but I had just finished doing ‘The Jump’ (British television series following celebrities as they take on various winter sports) so I hadn’t done so much training. Last year we did a couple of races together but because she is a Midlands based athlete and I’m more Northern, we don’t really compete in the same areas.
Do you spend much time together in the team set up?
We are in holding camp together and because we are doing the relay and stuff we are doing quite a few bits together. We will move from holding camp to competition camp at the same time, so we do spend quite a lot of time together. We get on quite well and she is one of the people that I hang round with. I get to see her training as well – we know what each other’s doing but you just have to focus on your own thing. At that point so close to the championships there’s not much you can do to change what’s going to happen.
As for the 400m, who will you be looking out for in that race?
The Chinese have always got something that they’ll pull out the bag. The Chinese athlete last year (Junfei Chen, who won 400m T38 silver at Rio 2016) was under the world record that I was under and broke. I think she’d run two or three seconds slower than that earlier in the year so they always pull something out when it comes to a major championships. But there’s no one else in the world who’s done anything that I’m particularly worried about.