Reigning Paralympic champions Richard Whitehead (coach: Keith Antoine) and Hannah Cockroft (Jenni Banks) have been named captains of the athletics team for the Paralympic Games in Rio, which gets underway on Wednesday 7 September.
Whitehead produced one of the moments of London 2012 racing to T42 200m gold accompanied by his iconic ‘two guns salute’ celebration. The 40 year old has continued to go from strength-to-strength taking over a second off the world record set four years ago running 23.03 last month in London.
With Rio likely to be his final Paralympic Games, Whitehead is hoping for not only the sprint double, but also going out with the aim of inspiring others in his role as male captain of the team.
The reigning Paralympic, world and European champion said: “I think when you’re in a team that’s the best prepared with the best athletes in the world it’s a great opportunity to be the voice of the team and guide that team into the Games.
“Hopefully I’m able to not only have a positive voice, but also a positive performance starting with the team meeting later on guiding the team to the best Games haul of medals that we’ve ever had.
“You’ve got athletes that have been to multiple Games that can provide so much knowledge and experience to the younger athletes. You only have to look at the legacy of London 2012 and the likes of Sophie Hahn and Maria Lyle that have come to the fore. Myself and my co-captain Hannah Cockroft are hopefully supporting those athletes with success.”
Cockroft herself has been in imperious form winning every major title since claiming double gold at London 2012. The 24 year old, who will be going for gold in the T34 100m, 400m and 800m in Brazil is really excited to have been given the opportunity to share her words of wisdom on how to deal with the pressures that surround a major Games.
The multiple global gold medalist added: “It’s a massive honour and when Paula told me I was thinking ‘it’s only my second Games’ so although I’ve probably got a lot to learn, it’s really exciting. Hopefully I can do everyone proud and do really well out here.
“I think the best advice given to me going into London was to soak up every minute and don’t be afraid of doing things your own way. Go out there, enjoy it and put everything into it. We’ve worked hard for four years for this and some of us longer and you’re the person that’s going to make it amazing. Paralympic Games is an absolutely phenomenal thing to be involved with, so enjoy it and do your absolute best.”
“It’s a really nice team and it’s great to be out here. Everyone is supporting each other and we’ve got some fantastic training facilities thanks to the National Lottery and the BPA and we’re loving it out here. It’s the strongest team we’ve had had since I started competing on the international stage five years ago and hopefully we can show that when we get into Rio.”
Paralympic Head Coach Paula Dunn said: “Richard and Hannah’s record at major championships speaks for itself. They have delivered on the biggest stage time and time again, which will act as huge inspiration to the team going into the Paralympic Games.
“We have a number of athletes making their first appearance at a Games and at the other end, Stephen Miller will make his sixth, which is an incredible achievement. Having the likes of Richard and Hannah to support those journeys will prove invaluable.
“We saw the success of TeamGB at the Olympic Games and we will be leaving no stone unturned to ensure that deliver those performances, which make the country proud.”