Hannah Cockroft is craving connection in Paris after a ‘meaningless’ experience in Tokyo.

Cockroft, 31, stormed to a seventh Paralympic wheelchair title in a world record time but the absence of crowds left the Halifax star feeling hollow. Paris promises more familiar surroundings complete with the usual fanfare which Cockroft has vowed to feed off when defending her distinguished Paralympic record.

“I found Tokyo really hard work,” said Aldi ambassador Cockroft. “I am definitely a performer, I like being in front of people, I like to entertain.

“I remember rolling into the stadium for my 100-metre final. When you dream about it, when you imagine it, when you're doing all the training for it, you just picture the noise and the buzz and the atmosphere and obviously it wasn't there.

“I remember sitting on start line and thinking, what's the point? Why am I here? This is meaningless. There's no feeling like when you cross the line and the sound barrier gets broken and it all just floods over you.

“I would love to relive it time and time again if I could, and that's what I'm trying to do in Paris.”

By anyone's standards Cockroft is cramming a lot into this year, with a rare World Championship-Paralympic double preceding a wedding to fellow wheelchair racer Nathan Maguire. Keeping her grounded amid the chaos is the unwavering support of her friends and family.

“Sometimes it's scary, sometimes you feel the absolute weight of the world and you feel the pressure,” she said. “But I always try and reframe it and go, you know what, that pressure shows that people believe that you are the best in the world. They believe that you can go there and win the gold medals.

“As a person with a disability, you automatically get clumped into the things that you can't do and you so easily can focus on that.

“It’s just amazing that I get the privilege of being seen for what I can do. I want to go out there and make them proud, show them that I work hard at this and that they continue to support me for a lot longer.”

Aldi’s Nearest & Dearest programme helps maximise support and minimise potential distractions for athletes so that they can focus on their performance and make the most of the unique opportunity to compete on one of the world’s largest stages. And Cockroft believes the initiative will help maximise support and minimise potential distractions for athletes in Paris.

The programme involves informative webinars as well as providing a dedicated space for athletes and their loved ones to share intimate moments together.

“To know that I'll have a safe space where I can go and meet with my parents after my race, whether it's gone well or not, where I can be away from people is huge,” added Cockroft. “To know my parents will have someone other than me providing them with information, to make sure that they can actually be in that stadium, all those little things add up to a big weight on your mind.

“It’s absolutely fantastic knowing that will be provided in Paris, I can't wait to be in that space and share the experience with my parents.”

Aldi are proud Official Partners of Team GB & ParalympicsGB, supporting all athletes through to Paris 2024