Rivalries are part and parcel of sport but five-time Paralympic champion Hannah Cockroft knows having British teammate Kare Adenegan as her main competition will drive her onto Tokyo success, writes Nicola Kenton.
Twice in 2018 Adenegan beat Cockroft over the T34 100m: once in the Diamond League in London and again at the European Championships in Berlin.
However, Cockroft, 27, re-stamped her authority over her 18-year-old British rival at the 2019 World Para Athletics Championships by securing double gold in the 100m and 800m in Dubai, putting her back on top as the one to beat.
Gold wasn’t the only glory for Cockroft in Dubai as she also reclaimed her 100m world title with a time of 16.77 seconds but with Adenegan lurking just behind, she will be taking nothing for granted in Tokyo.
“Kare and I obviously don’t talk around the track. It’s an odd relationship between us,” Cockroft said.
“When we’re on the track we’re each other’s top rivals, so you can’t be best friends. You can’t give the game away to each other, but actually off the track we’re fine!
“She’s a lovely girl, a hard worker and she’s given me that competition that I’ve been asking for my entire career.
“No one can say now, ‘Oh you’re only winning because there’s no one near to you’. I won this year because I was the best.
“Knowing that Kare is there is what will keep me going through to Tokyo. I’ll maybe train harder, it will motivate me, and I know that I’ll be her motivation to try to get that world record back.”
Cockroft emerged as an outstanding racer at London 2012 when she secured the sprint double by winning the T34 100m and 200m.
Four years later and ‘Hurricane Hannah’ retained her 100m title in Rio de Janeiro but also added gold medals in the 400m and 800m to her palmares.
With the 2019 World Para Athletics Championships not taking place until November of this year, the 2020 Paralympics are closer than they would ordinarily be.
Following her success in Dubai, Cockroft wanted to get stuck back into training immediately and continue to make her mark with Tokyo on the horizon.
“It’s a healthy rivalry. I think it’s what every sports person needs to really show what they can do and get the best out of them,” Cockroft added.
“And hopefully people enjoy watching what we do. But I think in my head I’m so aware that Tokyo is rapidly coming closer and it was such a long season.
“Also, my fire is burning now, I want to keep being the best in the world. I know there are things I want to work on, and I just want to get out there and do it now.
“Every athlete is the same after the world championships. We all said ‘I just want to carry on through! I feel like I should be training! I can’t afford the break.’
“It’s a very busy next 12 months coming up but I’m looking forward to most of it.”