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Hannah Cockroft defends classification after emphatic victories in T34 100m and 200m events

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Hannah Cockroft defends classification after emphatic victories in T34 100m and 200m events
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 6:43 am Download PostRate Post

Double Paralympic champion Hannah Cockcroft has shrugged off claims that she is not disabled enough for her T34 classification after turning her 100 and 200 metres races in London into a one-woman exhibition in the Olympic stadium.

The 20 year-old from Halifax won her 100m final eight days ago by almost 1½ seconds before pulling off an even more emphatic victory on Thursday night when she finished a massive 2¼ seconds ahead of her closest rival in the 200 to complete her golden double.

But the one-sided nature of her wins has reignited the debate over her classification, which is for cerebral palsy athletes in wheelchairs.
Critics have pointed to the fact that she is able to walk short distances, albeit with difficulty and with what she describes as “a really bent back”.

However, Cockroft has dismissed suggestions she should be reclassified, insisting that the decisive margin of her victories was nothing unusual in disability athletics.
“I used to get a lot of comments saying I was a cheat and a fake but I have all the doctors’ notes proving I am in the right class,” said Cockroft, who suffered two cardiac arrests when she was born. The resulting brain damage left her with weak hips and deformed legs and feet.

“There are so many athletes winning by massive amounts here. It is either they’re training harder or they’ve overcome their disability in a different way. There’s no real answer to it. I’m not really bothered by the comments any more. Whatever. I’ve got two gold medals.

“Someone, somewhere is going to beat me one day. I’d like someone out there to push me and challenge me and make me train a bit harder, but at the same time I like it that I’m that far ahead because then I have confidence about myself.”

Cockroft has an extra advantage over some of her rivals because she has been wheelchair racing since 2007 when she was spotted at a British Paralympic Association talent day at Loughborough. Some of her opponents have only been competing for a year in a sport that is highly technical.

“All the girls are at different stages of their careers,” she said. “I’ve had longer to perfect my technique and strengthen my body.”

Cockroft, who admitted she had expected her rivals to push her more than they did, revealed that some of them even tried a bit of gamesmanship in the call room before Thursday’s final.

“The other girls know what I have to offer,” she said. “One of them said to me in the call room ’just take it easy on us today Hannah’, and I said, ’I’m not here to be nice to you’.

“I knew I was the favourite, and that adds a lot of pressure going into it. It’s the strongest that comes out on top.

“I’m so sad that this is all over now. It’s amazing out there and I know even Rio is never going to beat London. You’re never going to race in front of an 80,000 home crowd again.”

GB team-mate Sophia Warner, a cerebral palsy sprinter who takes up the key role of commercial director of UK Athletics in the autumn, was also enthusing about the level of interest generated by the Paralympics after her competitive interest in the Games ended with a fourth-place finish in Friday night’s T35 100m final.

“This is the perfect platform for British athletics,” said Warner. “The Olympics went better than we could have ever hoped and the Paralympics has doubled that.

“It’s just the amount of spectators who are here. I’ve been in the sport 14 years and I was at the World Championships in 1998 when I got a gold medal running 19.6 and there were 80 people there. Now there are 80,000. So for me, I’m so excited about the future for both sides of athletics."

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