IPC Athletics: Hannah Cockroft wants better competition

By Elizabeth HudsonBBC Sport
I want to retain my title - Cockcroft

Paralympic champion Hannah Cockroft says she wants more competition in her events as she prepares for the IPC Athletics World Championships.

The 20-year-old won two golds in London last year in the T34 100 and 200m, setting new Paralympic records, and has also set a host of world bests.

"Sometimes I feel like the shine of winning is taken away because everyone expects it," she told BBC Sport.

"I'd love someone to challenge me - but maybe not beat me - as I like to win."

Cockroft, who will be bidding to retain her 100 and 200m world titles when the championships get underway in Lyon on Saturday, is the dominant figure in her class.

Earlier this season she improved her own world 100m record to 17.54 seconds from 17.60 - over a second and a half faster than her rivals have managed this year.

But she wants to show in France that she has lost none of her hunger.

"Now I line up and people think it is easy but it's not," she said. "If someone challenged me it would prove how hard you have to work to be number one.

"It would be amazing for someone to come close.

"I'm feeling good - I'm fitter than ever and I know I am faster than ever. Racing in Birmingham the other week was a good benchmark to see where I was at so it was good to see I am on top of the world.

"Hopefully I can return as a double world champion."

The championships, which are the biggest world event since last year's summer Games, are set to feature more than 1,100 athletes from 99 countries competing in 207 medal events.

The 48-strong GB team, which also includes Cockroft's fellow London gold medallists Jonnie Peacock, Aled Davies, Mickey Bushell, Richard Whitehead and Josie Pearson, as well as nine newcomers to international action, has been set a target of 25 medals, including eight golds.

The notable absentee from the GB squad is four-time London champion David Weir, who is taking a break from track racing to concentrate on road racing.

"We expect that the athletes who did well in 2012 will do well in Lyon," said head coach Paula Dunn, who took over the role from Peter Eriksson last year after three years as performance manager for the Paralympic programme.

"But we also have hopes for the new athletes."

South Africa's Oscar Pistorius is another high-profile athlete who will not be taking part as he remains on bail charged with murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Brazil's Alan Oliveira, who beat Pistorius to 200m gold last summer, his fellow leg amputee Marlou van Rhijn from the Netherlands, the world's fastest Paralympian Jason Smyth from Ireland and American wheelchair racer Tatyana McFadden will be among the major international stars on show.

Peacock's clash with American Richard Browne and South Africa's Arnu Fourie in Tuesday's T44 100m final is set to be one of the races of the week.

Laura Sugar hoping for sprint success in IPC World Championships

At the last World Championships in New Zealand in 2011, Britain finished third in the medal table with 38 medals, including 12 golds and then went on to win 11 golds in their 29 medals in London.

Among the GB debutants is sprinter Laura Sugar, who will be racing in the T44 100 and 200m and who admits to being surprised to have made it to Lyon.

Sugar was born with talipes, known as a clubbed foot, and her parents were told that she would never play sport, but she played hockey at underage and senior level for Wales before realising at the end of last year that she was eligible to compete at Paralympic level.

"Sometimes I limp because I have no movement in my ankle and I don't have a calf but I had never thought about Paralympic sport until I had a hockey medical day and the doctor asked me to try," she explained.

"I've improved my times in every race and I know I have more improvement. Every time I race I learn something new about the technique. I am competitive and my aim is to keep getting faster and if a good result comes out of that, that is great."