Welsh success at World Para Athletics Championships
It was a hugely successful World Para Athletics Championships for Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The team returns home from Paris with a medal tally of 29, 5 of which came from Welsh performances.
Reigning Commonwealth Games 100m Champion Olivia Breen (coach: Aston Moore, club: City of Portsmouth) was the first Welsh athlete to compete, qualifying for the T38 100m final. Breen finished 6th with a time of 13.48 seconds.
Next to compete was Funmi Oduwaiye (coach: Josh Clarke, club: DSWPA) in the first of her two events. Making her Championship debut Oduwaiye finished sixth in the women’s F64 discus registering a best throw of 32.79m – a season best performance.
Sabrina Fortune (coach: Ryan Spencer-Jones / Ian Robinson, club: Deeside AAC) picked up the first medal for the Welsh contingent on day 3, as she took back-to-back titles in the F20 shot put, picking up her first title just 4 years ago in 2019.
Taking the lead in the second round, Fortune did not relinquish the lead. Going on to break the 14m barrier for the second time in her career registering a winning distance of 14.01m to break the Championships Record.
A delighted Fortune shared:
“It was an incredible experience. I can’t put into words how hard and how happy I truly am right now. It’s not a personal best but you know what, having that title back is the biggest thing. I’ve had a couple of bad years when I felt my sport wasn’t going well and this just proves that no matter how hard you fall you can still stand back up tall.
"To hear I got a new Championship record, I was over the moon. I have to truly trust that I can do it now, I know I can hit so much further, I know I can hit the world record. I’ve just hit 14m which is a barrier I’ve been trying to hit for months and months, so the Paralympics in 2024, what’s to come? Well, I want to find out; hopefully it will be something good.”
Hollie Arnold (coach: David Turner, club: Blackheath & Bromley) continued the success, going a decade unbeaten in the women’s F46 javelin to secure a fifth successive world title.
In a gripping four-way battle for gold, a fourth-round effort of 41.06m was the decider. Arnold has only broken the 40m barrier twice since 2019, but the Champion performed when it mattered.
Arnold shared after her performance:
“I’m really overwhelmed and just so happy. It meant so much to me – my first ever World Championships was back in 2013 in Lyon and to be able to come here ten years later and win my fifth consecutive world title – it’s just amazing. I’ve thrown the best this year, after a rough few years throwing, so to be able to go out and throw 41m and win this competition – I am so happy.
“That moment when I realised that I won I was on the floor crying – that’s how much it meant to me.
“It’s testament to my support mechanism, I’ve struggled this year, I’ve had lots going on but the fact I’ve had the psychological point of few and my friends and my family – they all know who they are; I just couldn’t be here without them. My parents are just the best, for Tokyo [Paralympics] they couldn’t be there, so it was just so nice to have my parents and my boyfriend here flying the flag.”
The medal success continued with Olivia Breen (coach: Aston Moore, club: City of Portsmouth) taking silver in the T38 long jump, returning to competition after finishing sixth in the 100m.
A season best performance of 5.04m saw her upgrade her bronze medal from the previous championships to silver.
“It’s really special as it’s my first silver medal in the long jump, so I’m really ecstatic.
“I’m just so happy it was a good competition – and consistent. I’m hungry for more, there’s a big jump there and I’m just so excited for next year.
“I didn’t use the blocks in the 100m because I wanted to save for the long jump as that’s my main event, so I’m just really happy that it stayed in one piece. Now my plan is to rehab and get ready for next year.”
Competing in her second event of the championships, Funmi Oduwaiye (coach: Josh Clarke, club: DSWPA) took to the filed once more this time in the F64 shot put. Oduwaiye finished just outside of the podium positions in fourth, with a throw of 10.69m.
On the same day Commonwealth Games Bronze Medallist, Harrison Walsh (coach: Nathan Stephens club: DSWPA) finished fifth in the F64 discus, with a best throw of 51.18m
Also making his Championship debut was Michael Jenkins (coach: Ryan Spencer-Jones, club: Pembrokeshire Harriers), taking a superb silver in the F38 shot put. Opening with an immediate personal best in round one, Jenkins pushed even further and with his penultimate throw broke the 17m, throwing 17.14m – a huge European Record.
Each of Jenkins throws would have matched or bettered the world record pre competition, but Jose Gregorio Lemos of Columbia launched 18.26m. Jenkins finished the competition with three consecutive personal best throws, a European Record and a world silver medal.
An elated Jenkins shared:
“Going out there, I did have a lot of expectations – I wanted to push it, I wanted to smash my own best, and as a minimum I wanted to get the European record – that was my main goal going in.
“The really strong competition definitely helped push me – I don’t think I would’ve got that 17-metre throw without the pressure of the other athletes trying to raise the distance. All the boys out there are lovely and accommodating – I was the youngest out athlete there, and they were all giving me tips on how to handle the pressure and generally pushing me to throw as a far as I can.”
Completing the action for the Welsh athletes on the final day was Aled Davies (coach: Ryan Spencer-Jones, club: Cardiff Athletics), a decade of dominance for the thrower saw him win his fifth successive world title in the event since Lyon 2013. After taking almost a year out to focus on the discus event, which saw him win gold at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.
A best throw of 16.16m in the fifth round saw him win by almost two meters. Adding another title to his tally, Davies is now eight-time World Champion and three-time Paralympic Gold medallist.
Davies shared post competition:
“The performance probably wasn’t my best, but after the winter I’ve had it was all about just holding it together out there. I think my coach will be quite frustrated, but we know what I’m capable of doing and I guess after the disruptive winter I’ve had I’m just happy I can defend my title.
“I’ve strived for that ever since and there’s been a lot of ups and downs, like any athlete’s journey it’s never plain sailing. What motivates me is I know I’ve got much bigger throws, I know that that world record’s going to go, I know I can throw 18, 19 metres and that’s what I’m aiming for now.
“I’ve told my coach that’s the aim. I want to come back next year and throw a personal best – a world record, in Paris, at the Paralympic Games and absolutely obliterate that Paralympic record once and for all.”
With the World Championships taking place a year out from the next Paralympic Games, the athletes will have their eyes set on qualifying for Paris 2024.
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