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Uncertainty drives Cockroft forward

Hannah admits to a fear of life after athletics.

Five-times Paralympic champion Hannah Cockroft has revealed that a fear of what comes next could convince her to try to prolong her athletics career all the way to Los Angeles in 2024.

The 26-year-old is concerned that her decorated track career will count for nothing when she is finally forced to step out into the "real world"  – leading her to focus on keeping retirement at bay.

Cockroft, along with the recently-retired double Winter Olympic gold medallist Lizzy Yarnold, is backing the #More2Me initiative which aims to help athletes plan for a life after sport.

The initiative, which has been developed by the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, is also supported by UK Sport chair Dame Katherine Grainger and the Minister for Sport, Mims Davies.

Cockroft told Press Association Sport: "Part of me finds myself wanting to prolong my career because I'm scared of what is going to happen after athletics.

"It's been my life since I was 15 years old so I don't really know anything outside it. It's always been in the back of my head that one day I'm going to have to stop this privileged life I lead and step back into the real world."

Gail Emms
Gail Emms admitted struggling after retirement from badminton (John Giles/PA)

The issue of post-career struggles was highlighted in 2017 by the former world badminton champion Gail Emms, who went public over her failure to find work and make ends meet.

Cockroft, who recently took a step back from training to appear as a presenter on the BBC's 'Countryfile', acknowledged the same concerns and said she believed the issue is widespread.

"It feels scary in the sense that I'm 26 years old now and most of my friends have a house and a family and a really secure job – who is going to look at me at my age with no experience?

Hannah Cockroft
Hannah Cockroft has won five Olympic and 10 world titles (Simon Cooper/PA)

"Sometimes you lie in your bed worrying about it, and obviously this is going to impact on your performance. You need to grab your opportunity while it's there – but you also need to make sure you can look forward to your ordinary life afterwards."

Yarnold walked away from skeleton after retaining her Olympic title in Pyeongchang last year and says a campaign to highlight the benefits following a career in elite sports is overdue.

"Sport can be your everything but it's still important to start talking about that future which will inevitably come," said Yarnold.

Lizzy Yarnold
Lizzy Yarnold retired after retaining her Olympic title (Mike Egerton/PA)

"OK, you need to be 100 per cent committed as an athlete but you should see it as a strength that you have other aspects to your personality. We need to get the message across that life as an ex-athlete is amazing."

Davies hailed the initiative, saying: "Being a dedicated, fully focused elite athlete is hugely rewarding but can also be all-consuming.

"I hope this new initiative can help sportspeople use their talents so they can foster other interests too.

"It can give them an additional sense of identity and further opportunities beyond the sport which they love, so they are not left feeling isolated when their time as a competitive athlete comes to an end."

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