Hannah Cockcroft was told 'she'd never do anything with her life' after suffering brain damage at birth – now she's going for gold in the Paralympics
15:55 GMT, 24 August 2012
Going for gold: Wheelchair sprinter Hannah Cockcroft will compete in the 100m and 200m at the Paralympics
When the 2012 Paralympics gets underway next week hundreds of athletes will be proving how they've beaten the odds to become a champion.
None more so than Team GB's Hannah Cockcroft, who has cerebal palsy. Her parents were told when she was born that she would never be able to walk, talk or 'do anything' for herself.
Hannah from Leeds had two cardiac arrests when she was born which caused brain and nerve damage to her spine, legs and feet.
'Doctors told my parents I would never be
able to do anything my whole life and wouldn't live past my teenage
years,' she told The Sun.
But Hannah, now 20, has proved them wrong. Her bubbly and chatty personality debunks the theory she would never speak and she has an ability to walk small distances.
And far from not 'never being able to do anything', she is a multiple world record holder and the world champion in the 100m and 200m T34 wheelchair races.
She can also add being the first athlete to break a world record in the London Olympic Stadium to her list of achievements after she smashed the 100m time at a test event in May (she's since gone even faster).
Thanks to her recent run of good form, Hannah is a favourite for the gold medals in London at what will be her first Paralympics.
Tickets for many events have sold out and Hannah told The Guardian the prospect of racing in front thousands is a little bit overwhelming.
She said: 'None of us have ever experienced a home games, so we don't know what to expect. The crowds are going to be immense, everyone's going to be cheering for us. The biggest crowd I've raced in front of is 5,000 and that was mortifyingly scary. I'm going to lose it a little bit.'
Hannah got into wheelchair racing after the Beijing Paralympics when she met Tanni Grey-Thompson's husband, Ian, at a UK athletics talent day.
Defying the odds: Hannah is already a multiple world record holder – despite doctors saying she would never be able to do anything with her life when she was born
'He said “Do you want to go in a racing chair”' she recalls. 'I'd never seen one before and had no idea who Tanni was. I'd lived in a totally able-bodied world. Ian let me have a go in his wheelchair and I loved it. I'd never experienced anything like it before. You go and you don't stop.'
While Hannah is a whizz in the wheelchair, she admits she has to take it slower when she tries to walk and this often leads to people staring at her and making cruel comments.
'I can walk a little bit, but obviously I walk very differently, because I have deformed legs, deformed feet, and people do stare at you and they do make comments,' she said. 'I walk with a really bent back. On my first day at school a guy went “Oh, you're nice and straight, aren't you love.” I'm not really bothered by it.'
After the Paralympics, Hannah can expect to be stared at in the street more often – but this time it will be because she's recognised for her athletic endeavours – and hopefully there will be a couple of medals around her neck to catch people's eyes too.
See Hannah in action on the track in the video below: