10th July 2023
RAINBOW-COOPER A FINE FOURTH ON WORLD DEBUT IN PARIS
Eden Rainbow-Cooper (coach: Jenny Archer, club: Weir Archer Academy) marked her senior World Para Athletics Championships debut with a brilliant fourth-place finish in the women’s T54 5000m as three more British athletes advanced to their own finals after the second morning session in Paris.
Commonwealth silver medallist in the marathon and the second youngest in the field of eight in the women’s T54 5000m final, Rainbow-Cooper produced an extremely impressive last lap to chase down and pass Germany’s Merle Marie Menje to finish one place outside of the medals.
The 22-year-old, who has two more events to come, was never lower than fifth throughout the entire race and stalked Menje in the closing moments of the race before making her decisive move and impressively taking fourth place in a time of 11:22.01 minutes, also holding off a fast finishing Tian Yajuan of China. Gold went to Switzerland’s Catherine Debrunner with compatriot Manuela Schaer second and USA’s Susannah Scaroni third.
Elsewhere in the only other event of the morning with British interest there was a clean sweep of qualifiers for the women’s T38 100m final as defending champion Sophie Hahn (Leon Baptiste, Charnwood), Commonwealth champion Olivia Breen (Aston Moore, City of Portsmouth) and Ali Smith (Benke Blomkvist, Guildford & Godalming) all made progress out of the heats.
Rainbow-Cooper said: “I am absolutely buzzing. To come to my first World Championships and come fourth in my first final is more than I could ever have expected. Coming into that last lap, I knew I had to give it my all. In that last sprint for the line, I don’t know what happened. I didn’t realise there was a girl coming back at us, so I just had to focus and keep pushing.”
The first British athlete in a final on the second day in Paris, Rainbow-Cooper settled nicely into fourth after the first two laps and remained there as the front three went back and forth over who should take the lead.
After four laps, the top five including Rainbow-Cooper broke away only for Debrunner to slow the pace and bring the field back together. American Scaroni wasn’t content with that however and upped the pace, which would splinter the field and unfortunately deny Rainbow-Cooper’s chance of a medal.
She would drop to fifth behind Menje but was not content to settle for that position and began a real fight for fourth. Rainbow-Cooper showed impressive talent to get level with Menje on the last lap and then pass her while also holding off the rapid finish of Tian to secure fourth in her first senior World Championship final, with the shorter 800m and 1500m to come.
Rainbow-Cooper added: “My glove failed me at 300m to go, so I was just trying my best to keep pushing as hard as I could. I had to put everything on the line in those last few metres. I thought there is no better chance to show who I am and what I am made of. The nerves are settled now, so I cannot wait to race again in the 800m and 1500m.”
Breen was the first British athlete to take to the track on day two in Paris in the women’s T38 100m heats. Choosing not to use blocks for her start as she manages her recovery from a slight ankle injury, Breen ran a solid race to clock 13.81 for fourth, which left her with a wait to see to if she would qualify as a non-automatic qualifier, which would ultimately be confirmed.
The second and final heat featured the remaining two British athletes in Hahn and Smith and they ensured there would be a full set in the final as both also qualified. Hahn ran a good race alongside Darian Jimenez (COL) and they were almost neck and neck at 60m before the Colombian just edged ahead slightly to take the heat.
Hahn was second in a season’s best 12.86 (-0.9) for second while Smith ran her own race to take the non-automatic qualifier place in that second heat with a time of 13.30 with the final set for the evening of the third day in Paris on Tuesday.
Defending champion Hahn said: “It was a bit messy. In the heat you just want to save enough for that final but I am happy enough with the performance. I knew it was going to be tough with the Colombian alongside me. I know where I can improve myself to be ready for that final.
“I am not great with the early starts, I like the whole day to prepare for a race, so I was a little nervous coming into this one, but I am pleased to get the job done. I will rest up now and be ready for the final.”
The Great Britain and Northern Ireland medallists:
GOLD:  Gavin Drysdale [Men’s T72 100m]
SILVER:  Rafi Solaiman [Men’s T72 100m]
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