Hannah CockroftJust over a year ago, I achieved my ultimate dream: two shiny London 2012 Paralympic gold medals that were all mine to keep forever. Looking back on those incredible moments, I still can't believe that a girl from a small town in Yorkshire has gone on to do and see some truly amazing things.

My journey into elite sport started at the UK School Games in Coventry in 2007. Back then I was a nervous 14-year-old heading to my first major multisport competition to give it my all in the seated discus competition.

Heading to a big event when you're so young made me feel really anxious, as I was responsible for making sure I caught the coach, ate and trained at the right times, but this was all great preparation for the Paralympics; I just didn't know it then. The most daunting thing was being with so many athletes from different sports with the majority of them able bodied. At first, you're not sure where you fit in or if anyone will talk to you, but everyone is so accepting and just wants to be your friend.

I remember things going round in my head constantly. Am I going to make friends? Am I going to have to sit on my own? Will I do well in competition? But you just become a team so quickly. In fact, I met three of my best friends at my first UK School Games event and we're still really close.

My journey into elite sport started at the UK School Games in Coventry in 2007My journey into elite sport started at the UK School Games in Coventry in 2007

Off the back of the 2007 Games, I got invited to the UK Athletics Talent ID day, where I started wheelchair racing. This was a massive thing for me, being spotted as someone who had potential was not only a huge boost, but the start of my Paralympic journey. In 2008, I was invited back to the UK School Games in Bristol and Bath as a wheelchair racer, only a year after I was spotted. I didn't think it could get any better. I remember being really nervous on the start line as I was up against girls that had been racing for ages and I was in a big old heavy chair, but I still won. It was the most incredible feeling because there was so many people watching and no one thought for a minute that I would come through and claim gold.

In 2011 I went to the Sainsbury's School Games in Sheffield. I was stronger and felt really good. I knew how to make friends, I knew the athletes and I was ready to show everyone who was boss. But, for the first time in ages I got beaten, I went in too confident. But, looking back I needed this to push me on, make me work harder and help me to be top of my game. You suffer defeat and you're upset, but the experience you gain from this is so valuable to help you grow. You need it.

Competing at the Sainsbury's School Games can change the lives of young athletesCompeting at the Sainsbury's School Games can change the lives of young athletes

I didn't realise until I got to the Paralympics, how much competing at the School Games had helped me. I was doing everything the same, living at the village, eating, sleeping, catching transport, mixing with other sports and working as a team. I'd done this all before so knew exactly how to prepare, what time to train and how to balance having fun whilst remaining focused. And all this just one year from the 2012 Games.

Like all the young athletes heading to Sheffield this week, I had a dream and it was all about what I needed to help me get there. Having the opportunity to go to the Sainsbury's School Games has certainly changed my life, now it's someone else's turn.

Since the Games, I've been working with the Youth Sport Trust, who has run the event for the past seven years, as an ambassador for PE and school sport. My own experiences at school coupled with the School Games has made me into the athlete that I am today, so I hope that my work with them will encourage young people across the country to be inspired to take up sport.

The Sainsbury's 2013 School Games, which is supported by National Lottery funding from Sport England, and delivered by the Youth Sport Trust, is a major multisport event for the nation's talented young athletes taking place in Sheffield on September 12- 15.