World Para Athletics Championships: Which Athletes to Watch Out For?

Wheelchair user Marcel Hug in action at the London Marathon
Marcel Hug won his first world title in Assen in 2006
Venue: Charlety Stadium, Paris Events: 8th-17th July
Cover: Daily reports on BBC Sport.

The 2023 World Para Athletics Championships begin in Paris on Saturday.

Over 1300 participants from 107 countries will compete in 171 events over 10 days of competition, the largest parasports event since the Tokyo Games.

Alongside the focus on performances and medals, qualifying spots for the Paris Paralympics are also at stake, with the top four athletes from each event securing a place for their country throughout the programme.

BBC Sport takes a look at some of the athletes hoping to impress on the big stage.

Marcel Hug (Switzerland) – T54 800, 1500 and 5000 m

Known as “The Silver Bullet” because of the color of his helmet, the man is looking to extend his multiple world championship title in the T54 wheelchair racing category.

Hug played second fiddle to Britain’s David Weir at London 2012 but has since become the dominant figure in the class, winning two gold medals in Rio before winning four more in Tokyo.

The 37-year-old has already won the Boston and London marathons this year and also set new world records in the three distances he will compete in Paris.

Gavin Drysdale (UK) – T72 100m

Britain’s first gold medal in Paris could be won on Sunday, the first main day of frame running competitions.

In this discipline, formerly known as RaceRunning, athletes with severe coordination problems run with the support of a three-wheel frame.

Frame runner Gavin Drysdale in action at the 2019 World Championships
Frame runner Gavin Drysdale wants to keep the title he won at the 2019 World Championships

Scotsman Drysdale won the men’s gold at the last World Championships in Dubai in 2019 and the 22-year-old European champion, who says the sport gives him freedom, is aiming to retain his title.

The sport was controversially excluded from the Paris 2024 program but Drysdale and his British team-mate Rafi Solaiman hope to show that the discipline plays a key role in the Paralympic movement.

Lisa Adams (New Zealand) – F37 shot put

Athletic skill is something Lisa Adams knows all about.

The 32-year-old is the younger sister and coach of two-time Olympic shot put champion Valerie Adams, and her brother Steven plays in the NBA with the Memphis Grizzlies

Shot putter Lisa Adams in action at the Tokyo Paralympics
Shot putter Lisa Adams has an Olympic gold medalist and a brother, an NBA star

As a teenager, Lisa was diagnosed with a form of cerebral palsy, but after playing netball, basketball and rugby for some time, she didn’t start her para-athletics career until 2018.

But she’s made great strides since then, winning gold at the 2019 World Championships in Dubai and followed by victory at the Tokyo Paralympics – one of her country’s three gold medalists at field competitions in Japan.

Hollie Arnold (Great Britain) F46 javelin throw

Arnold is aiming for her fifth straight world title, but this could be her biggest challenge yet.

Just 29-year-old Arnold, who was born without a right forearm, is the most experienced athlete on the British team and made her international debut at the Paralympics in Beijing when she was just 14 years old.

She won her first major title at the 2013 World Championships in Lyon – the last time the competition was held in France – and then went on to claim her first Paralympic title in Rio.

Javelin thrower Hollie Arnold in action
Javelin thrower Hollie Arnold is aiming for her fifth consecutive title

In 2020, after the Tokyo Games were postponed due to the pandemic, she took part in the ‘I’m A Celebrity’ series in Wales, where she was the first competitor to leave.

After returning to training, she won bronze behind longtime rivals Holly Robinson of New Zealand and Dutch Noelle Roorda and will be looking to show she’s back at her best in France.

Markus Rehm (Germany) – T64 long jump

Despite his many years of experience, Rehm keeps breaking new ground and rewriting the record books.

As a teenager, the “Blade Jumper” lost his right leg below the knee in a wakeboarding accident.

Long jumper Markus Rehm jumps at the Paralympics in Tokyo
Markus Rehm is known as the “Blade Jumper”.

But he has shone as a long jumper, and the three-time Paralympic gold medalist is aiming for his sixth straight world long jump title in Paris

In May he improved his own world record to 8.64, a distance that would have seen him win gold at every Olympic Games since Barcelona in 1992.

Catherine Debrunner (Switzerland) – T53 100, 400 and 800 m

The 28-year-old Swiss star is in the form of her life and is hoping to dominate her T53 category on track.

She has already set new records this season and in May smashed her own world records in the 100m, 400m and 800m on home soil.

Catherine Debrunner in action at the Tokyo Paralympics
Catherine Debrunner broke her own world records this year

It follows a successful 2022 in which she made her marathon debut, winning in Berlin and London, where she set a new course record and her achievements led to her winning the World Athlete of the Year with Disability award at the prestigious Laureus Awards .

Although the 400m is her main competition and in which she is the defending champion and Paralympic champion, she will pose a threat in all of her competitions.

Timothee Adolphe (France) – T11 100 and 400 m

Interest in the French team at the championships a year ahead of hosting the Paralympics will be keen, and Adolphe, who balances his life as an athlete with a side career as a hip-hop artist, is one of its main characters.

The 33-year-old competes in the T11 category for athletes with limited or no vision who compete with blacked-out goggles and under the supervision of a guide.

Frenchman Timothee Adolphe and his guide Bruno Naprix
Frenchman Timothee Adolphe is also a hip-hop artist on the side

Adolphe, also known as “White Cheetah”, made his international debut on home soil at the 2013 World Championships in Lyon, winning bronze in the 400m.

He triumphed in the 400m and finished second in the 100m at the 2019 World Championships in Dubai. However, he had a mixed experience at the Tokyo Paralympics with a disqualification in the 400m but bounced back to take silver in the 100m.

Vanessa Low (Aus) – T61 long jump

Born in Germany, Low lost both of his legs above the knee after a train crash. But the sports-loving teenager was determined to keep competing and spent two years learning to walk again with prosthetics.

She made her international debut at the 2011 World Championships, winning bronze in the long jump and 100m, and winning her first major title at the 2014 European Championships before claiming a world title in 2015 and Paralympic gold the following year.

Long jumper Vanessa Low on her way to Tokyo Paralympic gold
Long jumper Vanessa Low represented Germany and Australia in the competition

After marrying Australian Paralympic gold medalist Scott Reardon, who is now her coach, Low changed nationalities and won gold for Australia at the 2019 World Championships and Tokyo Paralympics.

Last September she gave birth to her son Matteo and while she admits the event may have come a little too soon, she is focused on retaining her Paralympic title in France next year.

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