Perhaps the defining image of the 2012 London Paralympics is the beaming smile and outstretched arms of Hannah Cockroft. 

The Yorkshire speedster had just announced herself, and her sport, to the world as she took gold in the T34 100m and 200m, smashing two Paralympic records as she went. 

A decade on, Cockroft is still at the peak of her powers. The 29-year-old holds the world record over 100m, 200m, 400m, and 800m and has added a further five Paralympic golds to her bulging collection. 

It has been a transformative decade for para sport, that has seen increasing exposure and coverage since the heady days of those warm summer evenings in London. 

And now with another home Games on the horizon, Cockroft believes the para movement can no longer rest on the laurels of London and must use Birmingham 2022 to push it even further forward. 

“Birmingham is a new chance to make a new legacy,” said Cockroft, who will compete at the Commonwealth Games for the first time in her career this summer. 

“London 2012 was ten years ago. I visit schools now and you say ‘do you remember London 2012’ and they go ‘Miss, I was born in 2017’.  

“We need to move on from that now and make a new one, so that those kids that weren’t alive in 2012 have something new to look up to and something new to aspire to be.  

“We need to put it out there and hopefully off the back of these Commonwealths we’ll start getting more coverage so that people realise that we’re here, we’re not just popping up for Paralympic Games every four years. We’re in it for the full time. 

“London 2012 was really a catalyst for para sport, catapulting it out there and making people pay attention to what we do. Birmingham really needs to jump on that and make the most of it and really drive it forward.” 

Cockroft has certainly been an inspirational figure since becoming one of the faces of that generation-defining Games. 

It is something she has seen first-hand with the emergence of 21-year-old Kare Adenegan in her own T34 classification – the only person to have beaten Cockroft on the international stage, and the 11-time world champion still can’t quite believe people look up to a girl from Halifax. 

“I obviously kick myself quite a lot that I had to inspire Kare didn’t I,” she joked. 

“It’s amazing to see younger and younger kids get into our sport and being able to get into it because of what I’ve done or my fellow Paralympians have done. 

“The fact I can open that door for someone just feels really special and I’m sure Birmingham will open lots more doors.

“I grew up without anyone like that to look up to, it is a real honour to be that for people but as long as I’m enjoying it, if that can make other people come in and enjoy it as well then that’s my job done.”  

Cockroft has continued to blaze a trail since 2012, breaking further Paralympic records, becoming the first Paralympian to be nominated for BBC Sports Personality of the Year, and even presenting TV show Countryfile. 

Yet ‘The Hurricane’ has no time for looking back, and still has unfinished business. 

Cockroft will compete at the Commonwealth Game for the first time and is determined to complete her extensive medal collection, while continuing to go even faster than her current four world records. 

“Obviously, the target is gold, it’s always gold for me,” she added. 

“This one will mean so, so much if I can get it because I can say I’ve got all four golds, I’ve represented every team that I possibly can, and I’ve gone out there and I’ve done it. If I could do it, it would be amazing.”

There could be an argument to say that there is little left for Cockroft to do in the sport, but it is not the way the Yorkshire-born racer sees it, with a renewed focus on pushing herself to the limit. 

“For a while, it has been those Commonwealth Games, getting that last elusive title,” said Cockroft on what motivates her to keep going. “Getting that last elusive title that I’ve never had the opportunity of getting before. 

“During the pandemic and lockdown, we all had to find a different motivation and take it away from being about the race or the winning or the positioning because we didn’t have the opportunity to do that.  

“For me now, it’s all about seeing what I can do. My interest lies in seeing how far I can push my body, how quick can I make that chair move, and I truly believe that I can make it go quicker than I currently do. 

“When I don’t think I can go any quicker then that’s when I’ll call it a day – but right now I can definitely go quicker.” 

Cockroft’s quest to complete the set could finish at the place where it started: a home games. 

The 29-year-old has her own world records in her sights and hopes the power of the British crowd can give her a crucial edge, just like it did in 2012. 

She said: “Athletes for whom it’s their first Games won’t really appreciate it but having done London 2012 and then travelled all over the world since then, there really is no crowd that brings the noise, brings the atmosphere, brings the excitement quite like a British crowd.  

“British people really like to come and support a sporting event, and I’m so excited to be a part of that and be in the middle of that.  

“These are the championships that athletes count down to, every athlete’s dream is to compete at a home Games.  

“I’m now in a position where I can say I’ve competed in a home Paralympics, Worlds, Europeans, and now Commonwealths. I’ve got all four and there really is no experience like it at all.”