9th July 2023


The Great Britain and Northern Ireland team got off to the perfect start at the World Para Athletics Championships in Paris as Gavin Drysdale (coach: David Phee, club: Red Star) and Rafi Solaiman (Phil Fleetwood, Charnwood) won gold and silver respectively in the men’s T72 100m.

Drysdale won a second world title of his career, and he was pushed all the way to achieve it by European champion Rafi Solaiman who matched his silver medal winning display from 2019. The duo take home the honours in the new FrameRunning event to start GB & NI’s march at the Championships.

Solaiman started very well, as did Drysdale, and the pair were locked in battle from the early stages. In fact, there was hardly anything to separate as they neared the finish line, but the Scottish athlete just had the edge to seal the title in a European record of 16.66 (1.5) while Solaiman improved his personal best to 16.78, his first time under 17 seconds.

A delighted Drysdale said after his world gold medal display, “That felt amazing. I have never raced in a stadium like that. It was an incredible experience, and I am very pleased to be world champion. Well done to my teammate Rafi for such a close race. He pushed me all the way.

“I am so pleased to have won GB their first gold medal and I have no doubt that this will be the start of a medal rush for the team.”

An equally ecstatic Solaiman added, “I am on top of the world to be honest. I set out to do 17.something so to get sub 17 is honestly beyond my expectations. I thought everyone did well in the race so well done to all of them.

“I had to put a performance like that in at some time, what better place to do it than the World Championships. I tried to get Gavin but I gave my best – nearly!”

In the final event of the evening, Danny Sidbury (Chris Parsloe, Sutton & District) continued his excellent recent form to storm into Monday’s final of the men’s T54 5000m as he won heat one in a time of 10:46.76.

Beginning a busy schedule which could potentially see him competing on eight of the nine days of competition, Sidbury made the perfect start with serene qualification during the first evening session of the Championships.

He was always in the leading trio from the opening exchanges, and in the home straight, he turned on the after burners to push ahead of Frenchman Julien Casoli and Kuwait’s Faisal Alrajehi to seal the win. Marcel Hug (SUI) won the second heat in Championship record of 10:19.11.

Shortly after his heat win, Sidbury said, “It is the first time I’ve qualified for a global 5000m final. I was feeling pretty confident coming in, and I did enough to hold off the guys coming in second and third. I was testing the waters to see what they had. I am feeling pretty good and we got what we came for, qualification to that final.”

Paralympic champion Thomas Young (Joe McDonnell, Charnwood) navigated the heats comfortably to advance to the final of the men’s T38 100m.

Going in heat one, he knew a top three placing would see automatic progression to the final, and he achieved just that, crossing the line third in a time of 11.26 (0.2). He was fifth fastest qualifier overall after the two heats with the American Jaydin Blackwell impressively qualifying in 10.87 which was a Championship record.

Young reflected on a job well done in the heats, saying, “I am really happy to have qualified for another world final. I would have liked to have run a bit quicker but the main thing to do was just qualify through the heat. I’ll be back tomorrow to get the job done.”

During the morning session, Cleethorpes’ Zac Shaw (coach: Leon Baptiste) opened up the World Para Athletics Championships for the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team with swift qualification through to the men’s T12 100m final.

Competing at his third world championships, Shaw, the 2022 Commonwealth silver medallist, ran the best race of his career to date as he clocked a personal best of 10.86 (1.4), improving from 10.89.

Shaw finished second in his heat behind the event favourite Noah Malone (USA) and consequently progressed to the final as the second quickest overall. He will be back on the Stade Charlety track for a shot at the medals on Monday 10 July at 18:32 (BST).

After learning of his progression to the final after the slower second heat, he said, “When I saw the lane draws and the heat draws last night, and knowing the heat winner and next two would go through, I knew that I had to run my own race. If you win the heat, that’s great, but if not, you have to remember to stay relaxed and ensure you run through the line to get a good time. I am in the final so that is the most important thing.

“It is nice to get a PB but what concerned me was getting to the final. When I retire, I’ll be looking back on medals, not times, so it doesn’t bother me if I run slower in the final as long as I win a medal.”


The Great Britain and Northern Ireland medallists;

GOLD: [1] Gavin Drysdale [Men’s T72 100m]

SILVER: [1] Rafi Solaiman [Men’s T72 100m]