Huffpost UK Sport uk
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Hannah Cockroft Headshot

Why Are Female Athletes So Judged on Their Bodies?

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

Growing up, I went to mainstream schools and as the only disabled child struggled to get involved in PE lessons and sports clubs. It wasn't until I was 13 that I was introduced to the coach of the local wheelchair basketball team and discovered a new whole world in Paralympic sport.

Once this world was opened up, it brought with it some incredible women. Obviously, being brought into wheelchair racing by Dr Ian Thompson, his wife, Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson was a massive inspiration to me at the beginning. As the most successful female British Paralympian at the time, being invited into her home and seeing stacks of medals, trophies and awards was enough to stoke the fires of motivation.

Now, six years on, my inspiration in sport is Chantal Petitclerc, a Canadian wheelchair racer who is the most decorated Paralympian in the world. I was so lucky to have Chantal as my games coach at London 2012 so having the opportunity to use her experience at my debut was amazing.

But now being seen by some people in the same light is a strange concept for me. People call me an 'inspiration' and a 'hero' of London and its so weird to hear!

I see it as an honour to have a job that I love and to have had the incredible opportunity of representing my country at London 2012 so I don't see how people see it as inspiring! But still, if people can draw motivation from what I do, then that's fantastic. I always thought as an athlete, if you can inspire one person then your job is done, as if every athlete can inspire one person then a whole new team is created!

At the moment, Rebecca Adlington is in the jungle but the reception she has got is a good show of the pressure athletes are under. Where the male athletes have women drooling over their six packs, I feel as a female athlete, you are constantly being judged on your body.

I'm not a body conscious person in any way, but the word 'athlete' brings to many peoples mind an image of strong legs and worked abs, so as a Paralympian, who has no ab muscles and very weak, deformed legs, that image of strength and perfection is ruined. So as a representation of this, its up to us to prove that different is good and you are perfect however you are.

Hannah is shortlisted for The Sunday Times and Sky Sports Disability Sports Person of the Year Award. The 2013 Sunday Times and Sky Sports Sportswomen of the Year Awards are live on Sky Sports 1 HD from 8pm this evening - Thursday, December 5.

Around the Web

Hannah Cockroft MBE (HCDream2012) on Twitter

Hannah Cockroft reveals she is to attempt 100 and 800m double at ...

Hannah Cockroft | The Guardian

Interview: Paralympic champions Hannah Cockcroft and Jonnie ...

Hannah Lucy Cockroft- Double World Champion. | Facebook

Hannah Cockcroft Documentary - YouTube

'Hurricane Hannah' Cockcroft wins Team GB's first paralympic gold ...

Ian Bell and Hannah Cockcroft on BBC Sport Personality shortlist