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Five-time Paralympic champion Hannah Cockroft will be among a number of British sportswomen eligible to compete at the Commonwealth Games in 2022 for the first time, as it is set to include more female athletes and para sport than ever.
Telegraph Sport revealed in August that the Games will make history as the first major multi-sport event to have more medals on offer for women than men, and Wednesday's announcement confirmed that it will also include the largest ever integrated para sport programme.
Female athletes will compete for 136 medals while the men have 134 up for grabs. It marks an increase from the Gold Coast two years ago, where there was equal medal distribution.
Birmingham 2022 CEO Ian Reid said the programme had been "specifically designed to reach new audiences and champion the growth of women’s sport", and broadcasting them live on the BBC would help to do just that.
A number of female sports like T20 cricket and wheelchair basketball 3x3 are to be included for the first time and there will be more classification events for existing para sport too. It means a number of British Paralympic medallists will have the opportunity to compete for a Commonwealth title for the first time in their careers, including Cockroft, Kare Adenegan and Ellie Simmonds.
Cockroft, who also has 12 World titles, said this was the final piece of silverware missing from her collection. "I nearly cried when I [found out] my event was involved," she said of her 100m T33/T34 event. "It’s something I’ve wanted to be involved in since I started racing, I’ve watched [team-mates] go to Commonwealth Games and never had a chance to join them. Hopefully I’ll be adding a Commonwealth title to my Paralympic title, we’ll see."
Cockroft said it was a "massive opportunity" to see para and able-bodied sport run alongside each other on free-to-air television: "For para sport to get the coverage is going to be absolutely monumental for us. The year after a Paralympic Games things tend to fall off a little, so this opportunity is massive. It's also an integrated championships, it’s the only one of its kind, which means that we can teach more people about our sport and hopefully grow a bigger fanbase."
Due to coronavirus delays to other events, Birmingham 2022 will form part of a packed programme of events that year in the UK. Its July 28 to August 8 dates will slightly overlap with the home Women's Euros, something the Team England athletes see as a way to continue the momentum behind women's sports.
"It’s going to be like London 2012 all over again," Cockroft said. "The nation loves sport, they get behind it, and if we have football to bounce off it’s going to work really well. People are just going to ride from one sport to the next."
"The last few years women’s sports has been on an upwards trajectory," England netball's Eboni Usoro-Brown, who won gold at the 2018 Games, added. "Having women’s sport at the centre in 2022 will give it that emphasis to continue to grow."