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Hannah Cockroft Sam Ruddock

16th March 2013

London 2012 Paralympians Hannah Cockroft (coach: Jenni Banks) and Sam Ruddock (Joseph McDonnell) today joined the next wave of the sport’s hopefuls at Sheffield’s EIS, as a part of the British Athletics’ Parallel Success programme.

Ruddock, who finished 9th in both the 100m and 200m at the London Paralympic Games was only discovered by the system last year, and believes that the Parallel Success programme is a great way of finding the next generation of Paralympic stars.

“I was classified at one of the Parallel Success days in Manchester last year where I was recognised as a T35 athlete. By then I hadn’t even run my first race - I was still learning the various techniques of sprinting.

“I’ve seen people that have been enjoying themselves today, and when you enjoy yourself with whatever you’re doing, there’s always potential to go far. Whether they’ve got the talent to go far, it’s up to them, but there are a few people who could potentially see themselves on the start line in Rio in three and a half years time.”

The 23 year old initially neglected taking to the track, focusing on playing other sports at university, but after being made aware of the Parallel Success programme, the doors have opened up for Ruddock to become one of the best Paralympic sprinters in the world.

“I was actually discovered by a sprinting coach whilst playing American Football at Loughborough University. I’d avoided athletics for the longest possible time because I was very slow and didn’t have any speed because of my cerebral palsy. But he told me that being a classified athlete, I’d be on an even playing field and I could really go far in this sport. That’s how it started, which was this time last year.”

Cockroft, a double Paralympic gold medallist in 2012, echoed Ruddock’s sentiments and believes that having the opportunity to train under specialised coaching at the EIS, can help them experience what life is like as an athlete.

“These days are incredibly important - it gives the people here opportunities to meet other athletes, learn how to train as a group and work together. It gives them almost a taster of what is expected of them as an athlete, if they decided to pursue a career in the sport.

Having a proper training session gives the guys here today of the things the likes of Sam and I do day-in day-out.”

As two of GB & NI’s leading hopes for the next Paralympic Games in Rio in 2016, Ruddock and Cockroft have offered some words of advice for anyone looking to pursue a career in sport.

“Be prepared for setbacks and reality checks, but all in all, stay humble, work hard and then you can’t go wrong,” said Ruddock.

Cockroft added: “Find the sport you really enjoy, because that’s the only way you’re going to go far. If you don’t enjoy what you do, you’re not going to have that passion to get up in the morning and go out there in the rain or the snow. As long as you love it, that’s what’s going to take you far.”

Katie Jones, British Athletics’ Futures and Talent Manager has seen a massive uptake in athletics since the Paralympic Games, and believe that having days such as today in Sheffield, will continue to help drive the momentum of the sport.

“It’s great to see so many people here at the EIS today. Since London 2012, the people coming to these Parallel Success Introduction days has doubled, which is not only great for the sport, but also it shows that there is a clear pathway to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Hannah and Sam.

“For most athletes, like Hannah, it’s a longer process; after classification it’s a few years of training with their personal coach and progression through national competition. However, Sam was spotted at one of these days just a year ago and went on to compete on the biggest stage in London last year, which goes to show that with real potential and hard work anything is possible.”   

For further enquiries in how to get involved in Paralympic athletics, please contact Katie Jones: kjones@britishathletics.org.uk