TWO of Coventry University’s sporting stars are going for gold when they take centre stage at the Paralympic Games over the next 11 days.
Wheelchair athlete Hannah Cockroft, MBE, and wheelchair rugby player James (Jim) Roberts, will both compete for Paralympics GB at the games in Rio, which started today (Thursday).
Cocroft, who is taking time off her studies in Journalism and Media, is already set to take home three gold medals in the 100m, 400m and 800m races with success hoping to follow a golden performance at the 2012 Summer Paralympics where she won both the 100m and 200m distances.
The 24-year-old, who is captain of the Great Britain team alongside Richard Whitehead, has won now fewer than seven world titles during her sporting career and she also won gold for Coventry in the 100m wheelchair race during the 2015 BUCS Outdoor Athletics Championships.
“I’m going to win three gold medals at Rio,” said Cockroft. “Since London 2012 everything has changed. In London I raced the 100 and 200 metres. In Rio I’ll race the 100, 400 and 800.
“I think the best advice given to me going into London was to soak up every minute and don’t be afraid of doing things your own way. Go out there, enjoy it and put everything into it. We’ve worked hard for four years for this and some of us longer and you’re the person that’s going to make it amazing.
“Coming to University as an elite athlete was never going to be easy but the scholarship provided some extra guidance and support to help me to balance my sport and study commitments.
“Hopefully I can do everyone proud and do really well out here.
Cockcroft will be joined by Coventry University graduate, Jim, who will represent GB in the wheelchair rugby team for the first time.
Before graduating with a BSc in Architectural Technology in 2013, Jim was awarded Coventry University’s sports scholarship during his final year of study.
The 28 year old played for the university’s squash and rugby teams before he contracted meningitis just weeks after completing his first year on the course.
He needed to have both legs amputated below the knee, and spent over two years in hospital where he discovered wheelchair rugby and a new passion for the sport.
Jim returned to Coventry to complete his course in 2012 and with regular help and support he has progressed from Team GB’s development team to the elite squad that same year and has had his sights set on success in Rio ever since.
“I had a lot of help from the university to keep studying and get the support I needed, mainly in soft tissue and strength and conditioning,” said Jim. “I went from the GB development team to the elite the year I returned to university, and support I got at Coventry definitely helped.
“Going to Rio will be exciting. Paralympic sports are getting more competitive and since 2012 things have evolved a lot. We will be trying our best to get a medal, but any success will be fantastic.”
The GB team flew out to Rio on September 3 and in total there are seven out of the team of 264 Paralympic athletes who have links to Coventry. To find out more about them turn to page 9.