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Hannah Cockcroft Headshot

A Paralympic Champion

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It's hard to put into words all the feelings and emotions I have been through leading up to the London 2012 Paralympic games because there are literally no words in the English language that can describe it. The most important thing I think I have learnt through all this is not to judge myself on how I feel. After leaving a two week training camp in Portugal and heading into the athletes' village, I thought that fear would override me and I'd freak out a little, just like I did at the world championships in January 2011, but when it never came. I expected it even more when the opening ceremony arrived. Once again, nothing, and this carried on until I was sat on the start line to the women's T34 100m heat. It worried me that the nerves weren't coming because in the past, I've gone into races expecting to win and come out disappointed but I kept what I had been told in my head and just got on with the job in hand.

I knew I had a lot of expectations on my back and a month back, I felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. Heading into my first Paralympic games as double world champion and world record holder, but lining up against girls I'd never raced against before was a pretty big task to handle. Especially with 80,000 people watching your every move and the rest of the world observing your every other move. At times, I lost control, especially when my chair decided to break just days before flying to the holding camp, and I'm not afraid to admit that I was scared of losing in front of that many people. I was billed as a top medal prospect before I'd even pinned on my numbers and I found that a lot to deal with.

But now, I'm a Paralympic champion, I really am the 'golden girl', the 'dragster', the 'rocket woman', and I honestly can't say how it feels, because I'm still numb from the experience. Trying to remember it seems like some fantastic dream, in fact this whole experience feels surreal, so putting it into words is proving very difficult!

I tried to put on my 'race face' as soon as I entered the track, but it's hard not to smile when a feeling of euphoria is filling your body, as 80,000 people chant your name. In my heats, the sheer noise shocked me, but it made me feel undefeatable. It was my first time in the stadium with a proper crowd, so as much as I tried to concentrate on my three focus points in my race, ignoring everything was something I found impossible. I broke the Paralympic record in that race, even though I sat up after 70m, and -- just to set the story straight -- that was always the plan with my coach, I wasn't showing off. I simply knew I had a hard race, that I needed all the energy I could find for that evening. And the evening quickly arrived, with an even more electric atmosphere. There's something magical about entering the theatre of dreams to the backdrop of a nights sky, everything just appears to sparkle and glow. It really did feel like I needed to wake up, I'd waited four long, hard years for this moment, and here it was. And the only thing I can comment on it is that, wow. That went fast.

I don't really remember much of the race; it's a blur, as I hit 6kph and just went for it. Crossing the line, I just felt numb, I had no idea how to react to what had just happened, and even now I can't think of how to react. I'd dreamt about the moment for so many nights, and all I could think was, I wish I'd gone faster. It sounds so bad written down, but I know deep down, I had a 17 second push in me somewhere. I had split seconds to decide whether to laugh or cry and the cameras caught every second of that decision. In the end, I think I did a bit of both and pulled some extraordinary faces!

But the crowd left me speechless. If there was a roof, it had definitely just been blown off that stadium. Seriously, to everyone in the stadium that night, and to everyone watching on their TVs and online, thank you for your support, you carried me through that race and I'm sorry that I cant put into words how I felt but it was an out of body experience. Everyone has pointed out how I 'sang my heart out' on the podium. And too right I did!

I'm a proud Paralympian, I'm proud to be British and I was incredibly proud to be receiving the gold medal. I just wish I could go back and do it again, so I can remember more and cherish the moment. But hopefully my time will come again in the very near future.