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Paula Dunn's highlights of 2015 

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Paul Blake
23 December


2015 has been a great year for British Athletics’ para-athletics contingent winning 31 medals including 13 gold as well as five world records and 24 personal bests recorded at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha.

Spoilt for choice, Paralympic Head Coach picked out just a few highlights from the team’s successful campaign in the Middle East in October.

 

Richard Whitehead

Whitehead broke the T42 200m world record (24.10) on his way to winning gold to go with a fourth place finish in the 100m

I think Richard winning three successive world titles is worth a shout, because that in itself is pretty impressive. To be doing that and recording personal bests at 39 shows that he’s got longevity. For someone who has achieved what he has, he’s still looking for those 1% improvements. He recorded a personal best at the World Championships and it shows that if you do things right, get yourself in the best situation and invest in your own career it does work.

It shows his will to win is still there. The fact that he pushed to medal in the 100m and ran his fastest time ever in an event he rarely runs shows his undoubted determination and drive. He went away disappointed and what you want is for them to go away and think about ‘how can I make that a bronze’ which will bode well going into Rio next year.

 

Shaun Burrows

On his international debut, Burrows recorded a personal best of over a second to claim bronze in the T38 400m, which followed by a fifth place finish in the 100m two days later

I think he sums up our programme looking at fast tracking these individuals. Shaun was identified last year when he was doing the shorter sprints and I spoke to his coach that if he really wanted to go to Doha, the event that might be best would be the 400m. I was thinking longer term and next year for Shaun, but he went to the championships and won a bronze medal. We talk about athletes being brave, stepping up and performing when it matters. He did exactly what I expect true champions to do – he rose to the occasion. He left nothing on the track and there was no way he could have done anything more – he ran the best race he possibly could. You can’t ask anymore than that. It was a major breakthrough and a major achievement for Shaun.

 

Sophie Hahn

The teenager won two gold medals (T38 100m and T35-38 4x100m) and a silver (200m) breaking two world records along the way to finish a season which saw her shortlisted in the Top 10 for the BBC Young Sports Personality of the year

She’s had such a strong season. When she broke the world record at the Anniversary Games (Hahn ran 13.00) I was thinking she could be the first athlete in her class to go sub-13. When she went to Doha, she didn’t just break the 13 second barrier, she smashed it. I guarantee next year there will be someone getting close to her. The Chinese girl (Chen Junfei) also went under 13 and (Margarita) Goncharova is there or thereabouts too so everyone is progressing. They’re all now going to be going out there to challenge Sophie.

She’s got through that massive barrier, but you just have to look at Jonnie Peacock when he was the first one to break 11 seconds in 2012 and now there are five or six guys doing that. We know the world catches up very quickly in para-athletics, so I expect it to be a very competitive race in 2016. However, knowing the lengths Sophie goes to, to be the best, I have no doubt that she will be ready to go and take the world by storm again.

 

Paul Blake

Blake matched his performance from 2013, winning silver in the T36 400m, before leading from start to finish to retain his 800m world title in devastating fashion

Paul is very understated and that’s why I made him captain for the championships. Paul has never failed to deliver a medal on the team, so he had that captain role for a reason. He had a tough race (in the 800m), but there was no way he wasn’t going to win that. I thought he was brilliant from start to finish and I wasn’t surprised at that at all because that’s what we’ve come to expect from Paul as a person and an athlete. He ran like a captain and delivered yet again, so it’s huge credit to him for doing that.

 

Reigning champions

All six reigning championships from 2013 named in the team for the IPC Athletics World Championships retained their world titles. Aled Davies, Hannah Cockroft, Hollie Arnold, Richard Whitehead, Paul Blake and Sophie Hahn

This is a great achievement in itself. Having the more established athletes delivering goes a long way to inspiring the less experience athletes to follow what they’ve done.

We saw a number of new talents come through and medal on the world level this year from Georgie Hermitage to Kare Adenegan and Maria Lyle and I’m sure they would say that they were inspired by the athletes that have built reputations for themselves in the sport.

 

David Weir

Six-time Paralympic champion made his first appearance at a major championships for the team in Doha since his triumph in London three years ago. Despite battling illness, Weir won silver in the 1500m to go alongside the silver from the marathon in April

Doha was the first championships David has competed at since London 2012 and it was a privilege for everyone to have him there. He was brilliant for the team offering advice and support to all the team, which goes to show how grounded and level-headed he is despite all he has achieved in the sport.

Even when he was unwell in the 5000m, he didn’t make any excuses and made that real effort to watch everyone until he left. That is a true sign of his strength as an athlete and as a valued member of the team. Like Paul, Dave always delivers at major championships and he did that twice. Having spoken to him recently, I know Dave is ready and raring to go for next year and I know that fire is in him to be amongst the medals once again.