Image: British Athletics

Hannah Cockroft (coach: Jenni Banks; club: Leeds) enjoyed a dream afternoon at the British Wheelchair Athletic Association Grand Prix in Stoke Mandeville as she revised the world records in the women’s T34 100m (16.71), 200m (30.09), 400m (55.98) and 800m (1:49.85).

Last weekend would have marked the end of the Tokyo Paralympics Games, however, with a year to go until the Games kick off in 2021, Cockroft showed her class as she sliced significant margins off her previous bests.

One of the largest improvements came in the 800m as she pushed to a magnificent PB of 1:49.85 which improved her previous best of 1:55.73 set back in 2017.

The remarkable times were reflected across the field as Sammi Kinghorn (Red Star – T54) followed in 1:49.88, Melanie Woods (Red Star – T54) sealed a huge improvement as she crossed the line in 1:53.87, while Kare Adenegan (Job King; Coventry – T34) also recorded a two second lifetime best, setting 1:57.47. There were also PBs for Lizzie Williams (Sutton & District – T54) and Fabienne André (Jenny Archer; Weir Archer Academy – T34) – 2:07.53 and 2:16.66 – in the standout race of the day.

After regaining the T34 100m world record on her way to the World Para Athletics Championship title in November last year, Cockroft took a further 0.06 seconds off that mark, lowering the global best to 16.71 (+1.6 m/s). Sammi Kinghorn (Red Star) won the race in a time of 16.29 which was only 0.08 seconds off her lifetime best.

Over the 400m, it was a similar outcome to the race at the Müller British Athletics Championships a week last Friday as Cockroft came out on top against Kinghorn and did so in a huge personal best.

55.98 was the time recorded which reduced her previous best from 57.48, a big improvement over the one-lap distance. Kinghorn crossed the line in 56.58.

The 200m world record was particularly sweet for the 12-time world champion as she revised her best from 2015, clocking 30.09 (-1.1) a 0.42s improvement. Again, Kinghorn won the race in 29.75.

After her successful day on the track, the five-time Paralympic champion said: “There was no pressure, no expectations, it was all about going out there and doing what we love to do.

“I think that really helped me going into the 800m. Obviously Sammi (Kinghorn) was there. I always look to Sammi as being the one to chase down – I’m not normally in front of her. We said whoever gets to the line first (after 400m) takes the pole and whoever tires, we will just go around them. We both wanted to go for it and see what we could do. I’m pretty sure the whole women’s 800m field got PBs. It was a great race – we just powered through. It was pretty impressive!

“I didn’t even look at the clock (at the halfway stage) to be honest. Sammi started pulling out at 300m in, so I was kind of watching how she was moving out. Normally the clock would be the first thing I would look at, but I didn’t even look up. So, we kept going. I was holding over 18 mph on the back straight, so I was thinking ‘this is pretty quick’. At 200m to go, Sammi was telling me I had to kick so we just went. It helped me to have someone there to push me.”

Reflecting on the 2020 season and looking ahead to 2021, she added: “That’s it for me this year. I have no more races, so I’ll be taking a week off now. Everything is still unknown – we didn’t know if we would get any of these races in over the last few weeks. So, me and Nathan (Maguire) will get back into training. We have really committed over lockdown. We built a gym in the garage, we found new road routes and at no point have we stopped. We have eliminated any excuse that we could have given ourselves. I am really glad that it has paid off.”

“No one has ever had this situation before – no one has had to train during a pandemic or lockdown before. Everyone on the track today will have been in the same situation, guessing over the last few months. Should I be training, should I be resting, should I be sprinting or doing long distance. We are just glad the things we chose were the right ones, thankfully.”