STALYBRIDGE’S Anya Waugh is destined for great things according to Hannah Cockcroft, one of the greatest para-athletes of all time, who has become coach to the 14-year-old.
Anya, who recently made her debut in the live televised Muller British Athletics Championships when she raced against Hannah, is hoping the link will catapult her towards her dream of competing for Team GB at the 2024 Paralympics.
Hannah, who has five Paralympic gold medals and 12 world championship golds, wrote on her Facebook page: “Fourteen years old and racing at the British Championships.
“We have some hard work to do this winter, but watch this face, she’s going to be a star.”
Anya has left Stockport Harriers for Kirkby Athletic Club, Liverpool, where she will be trained by Hannah and her partner Nathan Maguire, who is also an international para-athlete.
Anya’s dad Chris said: “Anya was inspired through Hannah to take up competing.
“It is a dream for Anya to be coached by Hannah and the hope is that it will help move her to the next level.
“It only began at the start of September and Anya is over the moon and enjoys training with Hannah twice a week.”
Chris added it was a thrill for Anya to compete against Hannah in the Muller British Athletics Championships.
Hannah won the 400 metres T34, T53 and T54 race at Manchester’s Regional Athletics Stadium where Hyde High School pupil Anya finished a creditable fifth in the six-strong field in what was the biggest race of her career.
Anya, who has been competing for six years, added: “I’ve been in a few domestic races with Hannah in the past and it’s always really cool and a bit surreal.
“To compete on television alongside Hannah was pretty special.“Although I was very nervous, I really enjoyed the experience and was really grateful for the opportunity to be part of that race, especially as it was the first time para events had been integrated into the championships.”
Anya, who was born with spina bifida and has limited lower limb function, revealed it was Hannah who inspired her to take up racing.
It was London 2012 that inspired Anya to become a para-athlete after her parents Nicola and Chris took her to a sports festival in Sheffield where she tried out disabled sports.
But it was athletics that became her choice and Anya now races over 100m, 200m and 400m.
Anya, a former pupil at Yew Tree Primary, Dukinfield, said: “It was with Hannah, seven years ago that I first got into a race chair and we chatted a little about London 2012 and posed with her gold medals.
“She is the reason I wanted to try wheelchair racing and is absolutely a hero to me.”
Anya, who lives on Laburnum Avenue, added her only regret was her family and friends were not able to attend the British Championships.
She said: “I could only have my dad with me on the night because of Covid restrictions, but everyone watched on television, several times apparently!
“All my friends and family have been really supportive and were so proud.”Anya does not receive any funding and is looking for sponsorship. She can be contacted through her Facebook page.
• Stalybridge-based sprinter Andrew Robertson, 29, narrowly missed out on a title at the British Championships.
He finished fourth in the final of the 100m which was won by GB international Harry Aikines-Ayeetey.
Robertson had the fastest time of 10.26sec from the three heats
He made an electrifying start in the final and was ahead for 80m before fading to finish fourth in 10.48.