15 March 2021 – Five-time Paralympic gold medallist Hannah Cockcroft MBE, DL tells BigChange Motivational Monday audience about pushing beyond notions of disability
Soon after Hannah Cockcroft was born, doctors said her parents shouldn’t expect her to walk, talk, or ever live independently.
Hannah, 28, is now a five-time Paralympic gold medalist. As a sprint wheelchair racer, she is world record holder in her category for the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m and 1,500m.
On her journey from her Halifax home to the world stage “Choices over challenge” has been Hannah’s mantra.
Speaking to BigChange’s Motivational Monday audience, she showed how when faced with a challenge, we always have a choice about our attitude and about how to deal with it.
That ethos has led to great achievements on and off the track. “I get asked a lot what’s the achievement I’m most proud of,” said Hannah.
“People presume I’m going to say the MBE or my Paralympic medals. But actually it’s my independence, because it’s a thing my parents never expected.”
Her worldview switched during a visit to her Secondary School from the GB wheelchair basketball team.
“I will always remember that day. They were able to do everything in these chairs. These guys really changed my mind about what it meant to be a wheelchair user.
“It was the day a whole new world was opened up to me.” After years doing homework during PE lessons, or keeping score, Hannah discovered “sport was for me”.
After trying basketball, wheelchair rugby (“I liked the aggression”) and tennis (“I had no hand-eye coordination at all!”), Hannah found her passion in track sprinting.
By 17, she was a GB athlete and a world-record holder.
“That was where I came up against the obstacle of classification. You get a number that means when you line up on the start line you’re racing against people with a similar disability to you.”
“It started a big challenge, because people started to argue I wasn’t racing a fair race.”
“That was the first time I’d ever been bullied. When you are surrounded by people like you, disabled people, that’s the last place you expect the word bullying to crop up. But I was told to put my head in a bonfire because it’d make the world a better place.”
Her first reaction was to ask her coach to send her home. But she chose a different way, and went on to become one of the UK’s greatest athletes.
Hannah’s inspiring story shows that, although we can’t always choose the challenge that faces us, we can always choose how we meet it.
Watch the full video here:
Hannah was joined by Daniel Gray, Chairman of Physcap, a Leeds-based charity, working to improve quality of life for children with physical and mental disabilities across Yorkshire.
Daniel spoke of the tremendous work the charity does for children, and echoed Hannah’s message of giving every child with a disability hope, will to achieve and determination that nothing will beat them.
As BigChange’s charity partner of the month, Physcap will receive the £1,250 raised so far to further its incredible cause.
Next month, we’re excited to welcome Janet Street-Porter, the journalist and broadcaster. Our charity partner is Homeless Street Angels, who provide assistance and resources for the homeless in Leeds. You can donate to Homeless Street Angels here.
You can join our event here.
We hope to see you then.