Hollie Arnold (coach: David Turner, club: Blackheath and Bromley) underlined her claim to be arguably one of Great Britain & Northern Ireland’s best ever athletes as she navigated one of the most hotly contested World Para Athletics Championships finals in recent memory to win a remarkable fifth successive global title in Paris.
Arnold has dominated the World Championships ever since winning her first title ten years ago in Lyon and showed immense fight and desire to make it a decade unbeaten in the women’s F46 javelin at a global gathering in the French capital, in a final that became a gripping and enthralling four-way battle for gold.
It took a throw of over 40 metres for the contest to be settled – something Arnold has achieved only twice since the end of 2019. The now five-time world champion pulled it out when needed most with a fourth-round effort of 41.06m proving too good. It was her sixth world medal after a bronze in 2011 and gave the GB&NI their tenth in Paris.
Danny Sidbury (Chris Parsloe, Sutton & District) and Nathan Maguire (Ste Hoskins, Kirkby AC) had their own shot at a medal in the men’s T54 400m final but fell just short in fourth and fifth respectively while Eden Rainbow-Cooper (Jenny Archer, Weir Archer Academy), competing for the third straight day, secured herself another chance at a podium finish by progressing out of the women’s T54 1500m heats.
Arnold said: “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.”
Arnold got off to a great start with an opening attempt of 37.36m, which gave her the lead before New Zealand’s Holly Robinson pushed her down to second with a second-round effort of 38.97m. Arnold only managing 36.59m.
The Brit retook the lead with a huge third attempt of 39.49m however she would be knocked down into second again before the round was over as Serbian Saska Sokolov produced an even better throw of 39.64m.
With her rivals circling, Arnold showed just what an incredible talent she is as in the fourth round she produced an effort that simply wouldn’t be beaten – that 41.06m mark that created clear separation from everyone else.
The tension eased in the fifth round as the field came to grips with Arnold’s 41.06m – the Brit throwing 37.37m – before two almighty scares in the sixth and final round in Paris.
First Venezuelan Naibys Daniela Morillo Gil came from almost nowhere to land near the 40-metre mark, only to actually register 39.40m but still good enough for bronze before Sokolov, who remained in second, did the same – however she too was just shy at 39.96m.
Not to be denied the chance to prove she is the best in the world, Arnold threw the best effort of the sixth round, a 39.97m, to close the competition and what followed was an outpouring of joyous emotion from the five-time world champion.
“I was so glad I’d put myself in the position to be last to throw so knowing that Saska, who was in second, didn’t throw further than me I was like ‘Oh my God, please don’t cry’,” she added. “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.”
Both Maguire and Sidbury had realistic medal shots in the men’s T54 400m final, qualifying as third and fifth quickest respectively. Maguire, as expected, got off to a great start, while it was clear that Sidbury would aim to finish fast.
There was little to separate the field through 250m and even after the bend Maguire was still in medal contention with Sidbury starting to come through. Unfortunately for both Brits, who would end up swapping places, they were just shy of the top three.
Sidbury’s fast finish saw him clock 46.52 for fourth – 0.26 off the podium – while Maguire was fifth in 46.78. For Sidbury fourth in the 400m comes less than 48 hours after bronze in the 5000m as he admitted somewhere in the middle might be his strongest suit.
He said: “It was slower than the heat, which I was quite surprised by. I’m not a 400m guy so I was just happy to be in the mix and I did better than I thought I was going to do. So I’m relatively pleased, the time wasn’t super quick but it seems like everyone went slower in the final.
“The skills required to do a good job in each of the distances are quite different. Starts are important in the sprint events obviously, not so much in the longer distances, but it can be useful and so probably that’s the one thing I can take away into the longer distance events – I’m definitely more of a 1500m guy.”
Meanwhile Maguire was well and truly looking on the bright side of his first final appearance in Paris, with more events to come for the Brit. He said: “It is one step ahead of where I was in Tokyo [Paralympics]. Last time I got to race against all these guys I was sixth at the Paralympics. I’m fifth now and moving up.
“I am starting to belong with these guys and just be as fast as them. I would have liked to have scraped a medal but they were just better and a lot quicker. I’m ranked fourth in the world over 1500m and British record holder in the 800m, so I am looking forward to those two events now.”
The only heat involving a Brit on the fourth morning in Paris, Rainbow-Cooper was out for the third successive day but raced calmly and smartly to advance to the women’s T54 1500m final.
Rapidly gaining experience at her first World Championships, Rainbow-Cooper was patient and used the slip stream throughout the majority of the race, conserving vital energy that allowed her to successfully make a great move on the final lap.
At the back in fifth, she went wide to gain places and was second with 200m to go. Rainbow-Cooper would eventually finish third in 3:34.81 minutes but it was the top three who automatically qualified so she could toast a job well done.
She said: “It was a bit back and forth, quite slow at the beginning then a few speed ups, but going in to that last lap Tatyana [McFadden] just pulled out and I managed to follow through with her. I’m really happy with it.
“Those girls’ personal bests are quite a bit quicker than mine so I knew going in to this race that I had to time it just right to be in with a shot. Sitting down last night and thinking though all the different possibilities really helped me.
“I’m just really excited to get out there again to be honest – it’ll be my second ever final, the first I’ve qualified for through heats. It’s such a tough field at the moment, the women we have at this competition alone are really the best of all time, so I’m just going to go out there with a clear head, remain calm, and see what happens.”
The Great Britain and Northern Ireland medallists:
GOLD:  Gavin Drysdale [Men’s T72 100m], Jonathan Broom-Edwards [Men’s T64 high jump], Sabrina Fortune [Women’s F20 shot put], Hollie Arnold [Women’s F46 javelin]
SILVER:  Rafi Solaiman [Men’s T72 100m], Sammi Kinghorn [Women’s T53 800m]
BRONZE:  Zac Shaw [Men’s T12 100m], Danny Sidbury [Men’s T54 5000m], Maria Lyle [Women’s T35 200m], Sophie Hahn [Women’s T38 100m]
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