She may have a fresh-faced new challenger in GB teammate Kare Adenegan, but Halifax wheelchair racer Hannah Cockroft insists she is still top dog after a convincing triumph at Sunday’s Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games in London.
The 22-year-old stormed to victory in the T34 400m, beating Adenegan by more than two seconds on the same track where she claimed two Paralympic golds in 2012.
The reigning world champion looked at her very best, as a bumper crowd of more than 20,000 roared her over the line.
But with her rivals continuing to push her harder and harder, Cockroft is determined to go even faster in the build-up to next summer’s Rio Games.
“The noise was immense and it really takes you back,” said Cockroft, with the event doubling up as part of the celebrations for this year’s National Paralympic Day.
“I was sat at the start line with Mel Nicholls and we said it was difficult to deal with all the emotions, but I have loved being back out here in London.
“Kare was pushing me all the way – she is so strong for a 14 year old. I’ve been working on my start and doing a lot of work on the hills and I used that to win.
“It’s nice to have the challenge from all these girls coming through. It shows that number one, the 2012 legacy worked and it has brought new girls in who believe in themselves.
“But secondly, my performance still shows I am number one in the world which I am very happy about.
“I have been doing a lot of racing recently but it was a nice confidence booster. I know I can go a lot quicker than that and the girls are going to keep pushing me to improve.”
Cockroft now looks ahead to an assault on three fronts at the World Championships later this year.
Having become world champion initially in 2011 in both the 100m and 200m, she defended her titles in 2013, but two years later Cockroft is not resting on her laurels and is confident she has what it takes to become a triple-world champion for the first time.
“At Doha I’m going in the 100m, 400m, and 800m, so it’s going to be a complete change from any Championships that I’ve ever done before,” she added.
“So that’s scary looking forward, and there’s a lot more competition for the medals than there ever has been.
“But it’s an exciting challenge that motivates me, and competing in London has given me my confidence back.
“So now I need to go away with that confidence, work on the areas I know I fell down on in that race, and just smash it when I get there. I know I can do it now.”
National Paralympic Day is generously supported by Spirit of 2012. Find out more at www.paralympics.org.uk/npd2015