Paralympic and World Champion Hannah Cockroft OBE joins as Ambassador

We’re excited to announce that seven-time Paralympic champion Hannah Cockroft OBE has joined the Personal Best Foundation as an official ambassador.

Hannah Cockroft on the track

Hannah’s decision to take on the role is driven by her own personal experience of the transformational impact that athletics can have on a young person’s life. Having sat on the sidelines in school sport during her early years, Hannah finally got the opportunity aged 13 to take part, giving her a sense of belonging and ability, and she’s never looked back. Now, Hannah is determined to help change the lives of other children and young people through the power of athletics, the sport that has seen her become one of Britain’s best-known para-athletes.

As an ambassador, Hannah will use her voice and passion for the sport to help drive Personal Best Foundation's vision of ensuring all children and young people have the opportunity to achieve their personal best through the power of athletics. Hannah’s involvement will help to raise awareness of the work being done to break down barriers, reduce social inequalities and improve the health and wellbeing of children and young people in England. 

The Personal Best Foundation exists to change young lives through the power of athletics. It was established to bring together the athletics community and community organisations to engage, inspire and open the door to a world of opportunities for the most disadvantaged children and young people in England – helping them to achieve their personal best on the track, in school and in life.

The benefits of sport and physical activity for children and young people are well documented but inactivity remains a real concern. The UK’s Chief Medical Officers’ recommend that children complete at least 60 minutes of sport and physical activity every day but Sport England’s Active Lives Children and Young People Survey shows the stark reality that less than half (47%) are active for this amount of time and one in three (30%) are active for less than 30 minutes each day with inactivity highest for those living with family poverty or inequalities.

Hannah said, “Sport increases your happiness, your confidence, leadership and ability to communicate. Sport teaches you so much and I only learned that at 13 when I had my first opportunity to step into it. These are things you can’t teach in classrooms. These are all qualities that make happy, well rounded, fulfilled young people."

"I didn’t start out to become Paralympic champion, I started because sport gave me a sense of freedom and independence which I had never had before" "I didn’t find sport or meet another disabled person until I was a teenager. It is only now that I am so many years down the line that I realise how lonely I was back then." 

“You don’t have to go out and win gold medals but just have fun. Most importantly is that every young person should have the opportunity to experience both the physical and mental health benefits of sport irrespective of their background or personal circumstances”.

Hannah Cockcroft crossing the line at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022

Hannah has an impressive career in athletics including seven Paralympic gold medals, 14 World gold medals, three European gold medals and a Commonwealth gold. She is an inspirational role model to children and young people and with such sporting success, few might realise that her journey into sport was far from easy.

Sidelined from sport in the early years

Disabled her entire life having suffered two heart attacks within the first 24 hours of being born, she perfectly embodies how sport can change your life for the better and inspire you to pursue your goals in life, hugely important messages that lie at the heart of the Personal Best Foundation.

Doctors initially doubted she would have any quality of life given the cardiac arrests she suffered at birth had left her with multiple areas of brain damage and a collapsed lung, but luckily says Cockroft “my parents pushed me to go to mainstream school” and encouraged her to take part in as many activities as possible despite being in a wheelchair.

Early on, sport meant watching rather than taking part as initially her teachers found it challenging to find ways to get her actively involved. Fortunately, however, they persevered, and Cockroft was introduced to para-sport at 12 years old, when the Cardinals wheelchair basketball team performed a demonstration at her secondary school. From this moment, she was hooked. Cockroft played for the Cardinals for six years, whilst dipping into other sports through the club, including athletics, the sport she has become so well-known for.

“I felt a sense of belonging and ability that I had never felt before. I was used to being immediately segregated because of who I was,” she says, keen to praise the importance her teacher played in all of this.

“If I hadn’t had a really proactive PE teacher who was sick of watching me on the side-lines then my life would not have changed and for the better.

Hannah Cockcroft OBE

Cockroft’s incredible dedication and focus has seen her win seven Paralympic gold medals, flying to countless world records on the way. Her career makes for remarkable reading: She made her senior debut for Great Britain at 18 years old, representing her country at the World Championships in New Zealand in January 2011. Despite having only been competing for three years, Cockroft became double World Champion, in the T34 100m and 200m (wheelchair racing).

The following summer, at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Cockroft took the world stage by storm, racing to victory over the T34 100m and 200m once again and setting two Paralympic Records in the process. Having become double Paralympic Champion on the home stage she was dubbed ‘Hurricane Hannah’ by the British media. An MBE followed in the 2013 New Year’s Honours.

She then repeated her Paralympic success at Rio 2016, bringing home gold in the T34 100m, 400m and 800m, taking a new world record in the 400m and three games records in the process. Then, at her third Paralympics, Cockroft brought home two further gold medals in the T34 100m and 800m, breaking her own World Record in the 100m and her own Paralympic record in the 800m.

She is currently the T34 World Record holder in the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m and was named an OBE in the 2022 Queens New Year’s honours after her success in Tokyo.

With two months until the start of the 2024 Para Athletics World Championships in Kobe, Japan as well as the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games set for later this Summer, Hannah is preparing for a busy year of competition.

The Personal Best Foundation ambassadorial team consists of Cockroft, author and radio presenter, Vassos Alexander, Fatima Whitbread, the former world record holder for the javelin and 1991 World Champion, 2012 Olympic discus thrower, Abdul Buhari, Donna Fraser who was fourth in the Olympic 400 in 2000, 2022 Commonwealth 100m champion in the T47 category, Emmanuel Oyinbo-Coker, Marilyn Okoro, bronze in the 2008 Olympic 4x400 and finally Tom Bosworth, a British and World Record holder in the walks. All of whom, can make a real difference using their inspirational accounts of how athletics has made a significant contribution to their young lives.