In the first of a series of blogs from the ParalympicsGB Allianz ambassadors we hear from defending Paralympic champion in the wheelchair racing, Hannah Cockroft on her preparations for Rio, including how she’s responded to her first defeat in seven years.
My preparation for Rio is going well. I spent January doing some warm weather training in Perth, Australia and also adjusting to the new distances in Rio. For the Paralympics this year the 100m will continue but the IPC has added two new events, the 400m and 800m.
This definitely presents a different challenge but I trust my coach to tailor the sessions to my needs. Strangely, by competing and being successful in several distances, some people say it makes me less elite as it must be easier to win the medals – I definitely disagree though!
In terms of the 800m I’m fairly confident, as I know that if I can stay competitive for 700m, I can sprint the last 100m as my sprints are strong. I’m doing lots of hill work in training to make the flat feel easier and I’m working on my start particularly, as this is the weakest part of my race. I’m feeling great going into the season.
I had a bit of a wakeup call last year though, losing my first race in seven years and over 300 races to fellow Brit Kare Adenegan. I know the reasons the race went wrong. In a normal season the race wouldn’t even happen - I had to drive 320 miles to the competition and I was probably a bit complacent, thinking it will be easy. But the T34 girls are all catching up (funnily enough I’m one of the oldest on the track at 23!) and I’ll work harder than ever ahead of Rio.
Luckily this was the last race before the World Championships in Doha, so I only had two or three weeks to recover. It really woke me up and reminded me how much I enjoy winning. Coming back in Doha was even more special.
In terms of qualification for Rio, it’s largely based on your times. You need to have a top three world ranking to get through round one and then a top five ranking to pass round two. Though I think by winning gold in Doha (World Champs) you automatically qualify, as long as your times aren’t massively poor for the rest of the season. Competition is fierce, as there are 300 athletes going for just 50 places in athletics.
The key event for me is the IPC Grand Prix in Nottwil, Switzerland (26-29 May). It’s a renowned event for athletes as it’s the fastest track in the world, so a great place to record your best times. All the potential Paralympians will be there, so it’s a good way to see where I’m at, look at my competitors, and see how I can improve. I can’t wait for the season ahead!