Plant a Tree

A conversation with Paralympic Champion Hannah Cockroft MBE


Hannah Cockroft MBE is five-time Paralympic Champion and one of Britain’s best- known Para- athletes. Unstoppable, “Hurricane Hannah” has triumphed against many odds and remains fearless in the face of any challenge set. Hannah is currently training for the postponed Tokyo Paralympic Games, where she hopes to represent Great Britain for a third time at the Paralympic Games, in the 100m and 800m.

We’re very excited to share with you an exclusive interview with Hannah Cockroft, in which we chat about why Trees Not Tees appeals to her and how as a new homeowner, she is changing her ways to live more sustainably.

What’s your proudest or happiest moment as an athlete?

I think I’ve had quite a few happy and proud moments as an athlete, so it’s hard to pick just one! I think my most recent one was when I crossed the line at the World Championships in 2019, having broken the 100m World Record, regaining it after I lost it in 2018 for the first time in 7 years and going under 17 seconds for the first time ever. It was a feat that I hadn’t quite planned or expected from myself and a time I never thought I would be able to achieve, so I was absolutely thrilled to show my best on the biggest stage of the year.

How concerned are you about the climate crisis?

The science all points in one direction, and more discussion is seeping into the media, particularly thanks to David Attenborough, displaying the effects of climate change on the planet. These reminders are frequently staring us in the face and we all have a responsibility to change course.

I think we’ve reached a point where every one of us must be concerned about the climate, as we creep towards a point of no return.

– Hannah Cockroft MBE

What impact have your concerns about the climate crisis had on your lifestyle?

I recently bought my first house, and living in my own house has made me a lot more aware about waste- whether it be what we put in our bins or how much water we use, when you’re paying for it, you definitely notice it more!

I try to recycle as much as I can, whether that be packaging or clothing, I buy a lot of my clothes second hand, on websites like depop and ebay, and always donate my old clothes to charity shops or make sure they’re recycled instead of put in landfill.

As an athlete, I’m really aware of the amount of travel I do, around the country and around the world, but unfortunately it’s part of the job. As long as we’re aware and try to do our own bits, even if they’re just little things to begin with, we will eventually make a big change together.

Do you think the sports world is doing enough about it?

It’s a difficult thing to consider. Sport is a multi-billion global industry and produces some of the most magnificent moments throughout the year, so with that much influence, you would expect that there could be more of an impact coming from its example.

Yet, there are brilliant stories that come through in pockets which show shining examples to us all. Forest Green Rovers F.C. show through their eco-friendly innovations how football can act in the face of the climate crisis.

Plus, regarding something I hope to get a hold of, Tokyo 2020 are recycling old mobile phones to create their medals, contributing to an environmentally friendly, sustainable society, which they hope will become a legacy of the 2020 Games.

I am proud to have recently supported the Champions for Earth, which is a team of athletes seeking to speak out about climate change. Alongside 310 Olympic and Paralympic signatories (and over 40 Olympic and Paralympic Champions), the Champions of Earth published a letter directed towards the Prime Minister encouraging the Government to adopt a Green approach in its recovery from the pandemic. In this way, I’m glad to see athletes in the public eye using their voices.

What appeals to you about Trees Not Tees?

It’s just such a simple but effective idea. How many people do we all know who complete races and never wear their finishers t-shirt? Or maybe they wear it once immediately after the race. For most people it gets stuck at the back of the wardrobe and forgotten about. If you’re wearing your t-shirt on a regular basis whilst training, then absolutely fair enough, but think of all the serial runners who could pick up a dozen of these across the year!

Giving people the alternative to plant a tree without putting in any effort themselves is a simple action which goes towards changing the world in a small way.

– Hannah Cockroft MBE

When all these small actions come together, we might finally be putting together a sustainable future. Plus, if we want something tangible from an event, we’re all after the medals, right?

Who inspires or motivates you?

I’m mostly motivated by the girls I race against, as they provide the reason I train so hard for! But my biggest inspiration is Chantal Petitclerc, a Canadian wheelchair racer and the most successful female Paralympic athlete ever. I was lucky enough to have her as my Games Coach at London 2012 and her advice and guidance was invaluable for me as a young athlete. I would love to emulate what she did in her career.

What’s next for you?

Next for me are the belated Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, where I hope to add to my 5 Paralympic golds. It would have been ideal for me to have the games this season, as I finished on a high and broke 4 world records in a day in one of our few competitions. But, this just gives me an extra year to get better, stronger, faster. I’m not looking further than Tokyo, but I know that the Commonwealth Games, World Championships, and European Championships are all on the horizon too!

Huge thank you to Hannah for taking the time away from training to share her thoughts on climate change, Trees Not Tees and give an insight into what inspires her.