Cold-blooded speed queen Hahn holds off searing Sanchez challenge to extend unbeaten record at Tokyo 2020

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Hahn, 24, battled her way to T38 100m glory to defend her Paralympic title
Hahn, 24, battled her way to T38 100m glory to defend her Paralympic title

By James Toney in Tokyo

Sprinters have a well-deserved reputation for their swaggering, strutting confidence but perhaps they are doing it wrong. Perhaps, they should be more like Sophie Hahn.

Hahn is unbeaten in seven years in the 100m though she was given her biggest scare yet as she defended her Paralympic T38 title in Tokyo.

Quietly-spoken and self-effacing, Hahn couldn't do fighting talk and banter if her life depended on it but that's no bad thing - it's not unusual to find some of these sprint stars all show and no go.

Hahn does not talk much off the track but she certainly does on it - a three-time Paralympic champion, a seven-time world champion, a Commonwealth Games gold medallist and two European titles too.

Sometimes it seems like her biggest race is with herself, underlined when she equalled her own world record in the heats here.

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There was arguably no bigger banker at these Games than Hahn, whose quiet ruthlessness and dedication to training is legendary in para-sport.

Her cerebral palsy means her right side is weaker than her left, meaning training sessions are regularly followed by punishing physio and acupuncture. She nurses issues with her back and hamstrings without complaint and warm weather helps, meaning she's loved the furnace-like conditions here in Japan.

The medal has hung around her neck by many before leaving her home in Nottingham, the pressure ramped up further with team-mate Thomas Young's men's T38 100m win moments before she took the track.

She clocked 12.43s in the final - five hundredths off her PB - to hold off fast finishing Colombian Darian Jimenez Sanchez by just six hundredths of a second. It was a new experience to have someone breathing down her neck, one you expect will only inspire her to work even harder.

"It was pretty close, that's definitely that hardest I've ever been pushed," she said.

"She was hot of my heels and I really thought it would be a photo finish but to see my name was absolutely incredible.

"The build-up was quite tough with all the expectation but I tried to stay calm and focussed. I turned off my social media a week ago to keep my head clear and relaxed.

"That was more pressure than I've ever felt before, I feel the pressure with each race. I saw Thomas win gold and that really spurred me on. That's an incredible time to go sub 11 and I'm so pleased for him."

Meanwhile, Young vowed to see hero Usain Bolt and raise him after scorching to his win.

Bolt won the blue-riband event at the Beijing, London and Rio Olympics and the confident Young is already eyeing Brisbane in 11 years’ time, to go one better at the Paralympics.

You have to admire his swagger but after smashing the 11 second barrier for the first time, there is substance to his cheeky bravado. Don't expect his Wikipedia page to be just 35 words for long.

Young missed world gold on a photo finish two years ago and immediately vowed never to feel the same way again, a flying start leaving rivals playing catch-up on a hot and humid night perfect for sprinting.

"Any kid growing up in this sport was inspired by Usain Bolt and he's got three 100m golds and I'd like that too, maybe more," he said, his 10.94 second time a new European record.

"I want to be a dominant force in this sport, I know Paris is next but I'm already thinking about Brisbane, that's the long-term ambition.

"It's so special after the heartbreak of what happened at the Worlds, I just can't explain what I'm feeling right now.

"I had some time off after those championships but I knew there was work to do, we worked so hard, throughout the pandemic, to get it right on this day and it's the best feeling in the world.

"The time is a bonus but I just wanted to win, having that personal best just makes it even better though.

"Next year I want the European title and I've got a home Commonwealth Games then it'll be about getting the world title, so I hold all four.”

Sainsbury’s is a proud supporter of ParalympicsGB and a champion of inclusive sport for all. Sainsbury’s commitment to helping customers to eat better has been at the heart of what we do since 1869. For more information on Sainsbury’s visit www.sainsburys.co.uk/ and https://paralympics.org.uk/

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