Fly­ing start for Dubai World Para Ath­let­ics Cham­pi­onships

▶ British Par­a­lympian has dom­i­nated the T34 class since she broke nine world records al­most a decade ago

The National - News - - FRONT PAGE - RAMOLA TAL­WAR BADAM Fur­ther re­ports, page 6

Ath­letes pushed off in wheel­chairs and hurled the dis­cus as the ac­tion be­gan in Dubai at the World Para Ath­let­ics Cham­pi­onships.

The games opened on Thurs­day with heats for the 400m, 100m, dis­cus and shot put as thou­sands of ath­letes com­peted in the qual­i­fy­ing rounds at the Dubai Club for Peo­ple of De­ter­mi­na­tion.

Ma­clean Dzidzienyo, an ath­lete from Ghana, watched to get a sense of the track and venue hours be­fore his 100m event. “I’m here to warm up and get con­di­tioned be­fore my race,” said Dzidzienyo, who races in a wheel­chair, hav­ing con­tracted po­lio at birth.

As he watched the ath­letes set off on wheel­chairs down the track, he moved as if in synch with the men on the field.

“I feel the rhythm, I watch how they first push out, how they move,” he said.

“It’s a tough field and I need to re­duce at least a sec­ond from my time for a place in Tokyo.”

Most ath­letes are tar­get­ing a top-four fin­ish to qual­ify for the Tokyo Olympics next year.

An ac­coun­tant in a sports club in Ac­cra, Dzidzienyo said para-ath­let­ics was in­te­gral to his life. He has been with the na­tional team for the past eight years.

“Sports is a voice for the voice­less, it has given me con­fi­dence,” he said. “It has made me who I am to­day.”

Ath­letes in para-ath­let­ics are clas­si­fied ac­cord­ing to phys­i­cal abil­ity, since each track and field sport has dif­fer­ent de­mands.

Eleni Anousaki, a coach from Greece, said ath­let­ics, swim­ming and power lift­ing were among the na­tion’s top para-sports.

“We have top ath­letes who aim to get medals and for oth­ers it is about tak­ing part in a world com­pe­ti­tion,” she said.

“With more par­tic­i­pa­tion and con­tests, so­ci­ety is be­com­ing more friendly and open over the last few years.”

More than 1,400 ath­letes from 122 coun­tries will com­pete for top hon­ours in 172 events in Dubai over the next eight days.

Five-time Par­a­lympic cham­pion Han­nah Cock­roft has spent her life prov­ing peo­ple wrong.

Grow­ing up in York­shire, she was told not to play sports.

In­stead, the Bri­ton has pow­ered past prej­u­dice to earn the nick­name Hur­ri­cane Han­nah for the records she has smashed.

This in­cludes 10 world ti­tles in races from 100 me­tres to 1,500m in the T34 wheel­chair sprint clas­si­fi­ca­tion for ath­letes with cere­bral palsy.

She is now in Dubai for the World Para Ath­let­ics Cham­pi­onships, which be­gan on Thurs­day and will run un­til next Fri­day.

“When I was grow­ing I had so many peo­ple up say, ‘Han­nah you can’t do this, Han­nah you can’t do that’. I don’t like be­ing told that I can’t do some­thing,” said Cock­roft, 27, who tried wheel­chair rac­ing for the first time at the age of 15.

Stead­fast in her bat­tle to face the ill in­formed head-on, she has dom­i­nated the T34 class since she broke nine world records in 2010.

“I was told that sport wasn’t for me and I shouldn’t be a part of it – now I’m a Par­a­lympian and a pro­fes­sional ath­lete, so sport is for any­body if they want to try it.”

Her mother pushed back when au­thor­i­ties rec­om­mended that

Cock­roft be sent to a school for the dis­abled in­stead of the main­stream school her broth­ers at­tended.

She re­called how she was even­tu­ally ac­cepted af­ter fac­ing “mas­sive bar­ri­ers”.

“Once I was there, they didn’t want me to join PE lessons, which is why I al­ways stayed away from sport un­til I was a teenager,” she said.

Tack­ling other peo­ple’s per­cep­tions of dis­abil­ity also coloured her own ex­pe­ri­ences of want­ing to fit in in­stead of be­ing viewed as dif­fer­ent.

Two heart at­tacks at birth left her with brain dam­age and her un­der­de­vel­oped feet and legs caused mo­bil­ity and bal­ance prob­lems.

Sport helped Cock­roft to claim her own space.

“It made me ac­cept my wheel­chair a lot more,” she said.

“I wanted to walk to be like ev­ery­body else. I was scared of my wheel­chair. Sports showed me wheel­chairs are cool, they are ac­cept­able and ac­tu­ally make you much more in­de­pen­dent.”

The ac­co­lades have not quenched her thirst for gold.

Cock­roft comes into the World Para Ath­let­ics Cham­pi­onships af­ter fin­ish­ing sec­ond for the first time in her sport­ing ca­reer last year.

“I didn’t re­ally en­joy the ex­pe­ri­ence,” she said about be­ing handed the sil­ver medal in the T34 100m at the 2018 World Para Ath­let­ics Eu­ro­pean Cham­pi­onships in Ber­lin.

In Dubai, Cock­roft will com­pete in the 100m and 800m as part of a 43-strong British para-ath­letic track and field team.

She is de­ter­mined to re­claim the top spot.

“I love the feel­ing of go­ing across the line first,” she said.

She said par­ents must en­cour­age chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties to take up a sport.

“Sport is mas­sively im­por­tant for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties,” she said.

“It teaches you a lot of skills, how to com­mu­ni­cate with peo­ple, teamwork and may help you travel the world.

“It has made me a lot stronger and al­lowed me to do things I never thought I would be able to do.”

Her mother pushed back when au­thor­i­ties rec­om­mended Cock­roft be sent to a school for the dis­abled

Pawan Singh / The Na­tional

Ath­letes in the men’s 100m T54 at the Dubai 2019 World Para Ath­let­ics Cham­pi­onships

Getty

Han­nah Cock­roft cel­e­brates af­ter set­ting a new world record in the Women’s 100m T34 at the 2017 IPC World ParaAth­let­ics Cham­pi­onships in Lon­don

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.