Hannah Cockroft targets Tanni Grey-Thompson’s record Paralympics medal haul

Five-time Paralympic champion Hannah Cockroft has vowed to chase the record medal haul of Tanni Grey-Thompson until her “arms fall off”.

Baroness Grey-Thompson is Great Britain’s most successful Paralympic wheelchair racer, having won a remarkable 11 golds on the track between 1992 and 2004.

Cockroft still has some way to go to emulate that achievement but could soon move another couple of steps closer after being named in her country’s squad for Tokyo, where she will compete in the T34 100m and 800m.

Tanni Grey-Thompson won 11 Paralympic gold medals during her career
Tanni Grey-Thompson won 11 Paralympic gold medals during her career (Gareth Copley/PA)

The 28-year-old predicts she will need at least a further three Games to do so and did not rule out trips to Paris in 2024 and Los Angeles four years later.

“I just keep going and enjoying what I’m doing and if I can win, that’s fab,” Cockroft told the PA news agency.

“Everyone keeps going to me, ‘Are you going to go for Tanni’s medal count in the Paralympics?’ And obviously it’s there to chase.

“I don’t know if I will ever get it because I don’t have as many events as she did but the more I can get, the better, so I will just keep going until my arms fall off.

“I’ve got five (medals) from two (Paralympics) so I’d at least need another three Games.

“I’d love to go to Paris but I haven’t really thought anything beyond that. LA will be an amazing Games; whether I will be on that start line… I will be old by then!”

Cockroft announced herself on the Paralympic scene with a pair of golds at London 2012 – in the 100m and 200m – before being crowned champion in the 100m, 400m, 800m four years later in Rio.

She underlined her credentials for the forthcoming event by lowering her own world records in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m at the World Para Athletics Grand Prix in Switzerland last month.

Having been compelled to train in her garage during lockdown, the Yorkshire-born athlete is delighted with her current form and feels reinvigorated by the enforced break from action.

“I’m pushing really, really well at the moment. I’m so happy with how I’m performing. I think a lot of it is just coming from enjoyment – once you’ve been taken away from what you love doing, you kind of appreciate it even more,” she said.

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“It gives me massive confidence going into the Games. I don’t want to be overly confident, I don’t know what all my rivals are doing and I’m sure they are watching me so they know what to aim for.

“But just to know that I am achieving those times after training in my garage for however many months is pretty cool because now we’re back on track so hopefully I can go even quicker.”

Cockroft is one of six reigning Paralympic champions named in the first wave of British para athletes who will travel to Japan later this summer, alongside Hollie Arnold, Jo Butterfield, Aled Davies, Sophie Hahn and Richard Whitehead.

Kare Adenegan, Jonathan Broom-Edwards, Sabrina Fortune, Maria Lyle, Andrew Small and Thomas Young complete the group of 12 announced on Wednesday.

Sprinter Young is the only Paralympic debutant among the contingent and is seeking glory in the T38 100m having successfully defended his European title in that event earlier this month.

Sprinter Thomas Young is set to make his Paralympic Games debut
Sprinter Thomas Young is set to make his Paralympic Games debut (Nigel French/PA)

The 20-year-old, who grew up idolising Usain Bolt, was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis shortly after London 2012, a genetic disorder of the nervous system which affects his coordination.

“I’m really excited because it’s my first one so to go out there and wear the vest is going to be amazing,” he said.

“Before London 2012, I had no clue I had an impairment.

“I’ve got eight weeks now to prepare for the biggest Games of my life and hopefully once I run there, whatever the situation is, I will be as competitive as possible.

“As an athlete, we’re always learning but as a young athlete I’ve got lots to learn so with the extra year I’ve had a lot more time to train, learn new things and hopefully run quicker.”