Hannah Cockroft claimed an incredible 16th world title as she secured the women’s T34 800m title for the fifth time, before returning to the track 50 minutes later to join her teammates Zac Shaw, Kevin Santos and Ali Smith in winning universal 4x100m relay silver for Great Britain and Northern Ireland on a superb night for the team at the World Para Athletics Championships in Kobe, Japan.

The relay silver brought a close to another successful day for the GB & NI team after Cockroft’s earlier heroics. There was also a fourth place for Fabienne Andre in the T34 800m, and Nathan Maguire comfortably booked his place in the men’s T54 800m final on Saturday.

Cockroft (coach: Paul Moseley, club: Leeds) showed her majestic quality in the 800m as she set a second Championship record of the week on her way to victory. From the gun, the Yorkshire woman looked in serene form as she powered away from her competitors, opening up a clear advantage over her compatriot Fabienne Andre, and Chinese duo Lan Hanyu and Liu Panpan down the backstraight. Once she was in full motion, there was no stopping the Briton as she earned a remarkable 16th world title in a time of 1:52.79, her fastest ever time at a worlds.

A delighted Cockroft said afterwards, ““16 world titles is like one world title for every year I have been racing so I am very happy. Two races within 50 minutes of each other was a big ask. I was testing it here to see if I could actually handle it. But to go out [in the 800m] and get a good start and relax – something which I don’t feel like I did so well in the heat yesterday – I’m not upset with a 1:52 and Championship record in mid-May. There is a lot of work to do, so I can only get faster from here.

“To finish on a night like this has been amazing. To do what I did in the 800m, and then come back and get a silver in the relay is what I hoped for, but I don’t know if I believed I could do it. But it is the perfect ending, and it has given me a massive confidence booster ahead of the rest of the year and the Paralympic Games.”

On the relay, she added, “Lining up against three T54 men is absolutely terrifying. I felt like I just had to push for my life. We have run together only once as a quartet before this morning’s heat, so to win a silver, I think we are putting something pretty strong out there.”

Back in the T34 800m final, Fabienne Andre (Richard Chiassaro, Harlow) admitted an error in the first 100m of her race cost her a place on the podium, but the young athlete learned lots of lessons on her way to fourth place.

She laid in third position for 700m of the contest, as she was embroiled in a constant battle with Panpan who was pushing her all the way around, attempting overtaking manoeuvres on the Briton a handful of times, but Andre fended off her efforts well. However, as the Chinese went wide coming into the home straight, it was a sprint shootout for bronze and Panpan just sealed it to join her teammate, Hanyu, on the podium. Andre recorded a time of 2:05.88.

With the relay also in her sights, Cockroft had no time for celebrations as she headed back to the call room with her 4x100m final taking place 50 minutes after her 800m final.

As she returned to the track alongside Shaw (Leon Baptiste, Cleethorpes), Santos (Mike Utting, City of Norwich) and Ali Smith (Benke Blomkvist, Guildford & Godalming), the British team looked focused on claiming another world medal in this event.

Shaw – bronze medallist in the T12 100m earlier in the Championships – was first off on the opening leg and produced a sublime leg from lane one as the wind started to pick up around the Kobe Universiade Memorial Stadium. As he exchanged with Santos, the British team looked in a strong position, and the City of Norwich athlete produced a solid backstraight run in his first world championship relay final.

The next changeover saw Santos and Smith exchange, and the T38 athlete blasted around the bend with China – the eventual winners – now coming into contention for the gold alongside the Brits. With Cockroft facing three men’s T54 athlete on the final leg, China pulled away but Cockroft gave every last bit to hold off Indonesia and Japan to earn the team the world silver medal in a time of 47.50.

Afterwards, an elated Shaw said, “I love the relay so much and I love this team so much. Genuinely, I don’t know what to say, I’m just buzzing we’ve won a silver. From lane one to run 47.50, three-tenths off the European record when it’s that windy in May, is really good. We have a Whatsapp group called ‘Project Gold’ for the Paralympics, so let’s verbalise it now, that’s what we are going for there.”

Santos added, “I wasn’t happy with my performance in the individual 100m, so I had to step up for the relay. I am over moon to get a silver. This is my first time competing in the relay at a major Championship, so I was very proud of my team.”

Ahead of her T38 400m final on Saturday evening, Smith commented, “It was a bit windy out there, but I loved it. I always enjoy the relay. I’m quite small so I can nip around the bend quite well in lane one, but the Chinese athlete was so fast. I tried my best and worked hard to hand over to Hannah in a good place.”

In the earlier heats, the same quartet assembled to clock 47.67 to narrowly finish behind Indonesia and move through as one of two fastest qualifiers. The team produced a solid display and Smith handed over to Cockroft with a slight advantage but facing a male T54 athlete on the final leg, the Indonesian Jaenal Aripin just took it on the line. The USA finished third behind GB & NI in that heat but were later disqualified. 

During the evening session, there was a relatively straightforward heat for Nathan Maguire (Steve Hoskins, Kirkby) as he swiftly advanced to Saturday’s men’s T54 800m final after a crash behind him ensured safe passage.

With China’s Dai Yunqiang pushing out for a solo effort of 1:33.72, Maguire sat on the wheel of Thailand’s Saichon Konjen over the opening lap. However, 250 metres in, Australia’s Luke Bailey and Mauritius’ Cedric Ravet were embroiled in a crash which ended their races. With the top three automatically qualifying, and only three left in the race, Maguire pushed around easily to a time of 1:38.92 in third for the big Q.

The Championships come to a close on Saturday with Maguire and Smith returning for their finals, and Aled Davies competing in the men’s F63 shot put final.

The 2024 World Para Athletics Championships will be live on the IPC YouTube channel HERE

Start lists and results can be found HERE

The Great Britain and Northern Ireland medal tally:

Gold (6): Hollie Arnold [F46 Javelin]Jonathan Broom-Edwards [T64 High Jump], Hannah Cockroft [T34 100m and 800m], Sabrina Fortune [F20 Shot Put], Dan Pembroke [F13 Javelin]

Silver (2): Thomas Young [T38 100m]Universal 4x100m Relay [Zac Shaw, Kevin Santos, Ali Smith and Hannah Cockroft]

Bronze (2): Zac Shaw [T12 100m], Harrison Walsh [F64 Discus]

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