Paris 23 Worlds: Wheelchair racing sensation Catherine Debrunner aims to shine

Two months after winning the prestigious Laureus Award in Paris, Switzerland’s Catherine Debrunner returns to the city to compete at the Para Athletics World Championships 08 Jul 2023
Wheelchair racer Catherine Debrunner celebrates winning with her fist raised in the air
Catherine Debrunner is aiming for more gold at the Paris 23 Worlds after a highly successful 2022 season.
ⒸBuda Mendes/Getty Images

Paris is a special city for Paralympic champion Catherine Debrunner. In May 2023, the Swiss wheelchair racer accomplished her childhood dream when she received the prestigious Laureus Award at a glittering ceremony in the French capital.  

Two months later, she returned to the city to compete at the Paris 23 Para Athletics World Championships, which serve as the most important stop on the road to the Paralympic Games next year. 

“It hasn’t settled in yet because so many things happened in the last couple of weeks and months. But it’s a really big honour and I feel so proud of my team that helped me over the last 20 years,” Debrunner said of the award. 

“I like seeing Paris and it’s a special (place) for me. Two months later, the World Champs, and I’m also really excited that my family will be here.” 

Back in Paris 

Debrunner won her first Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability Award for dominating both the road and track in her successful 2022 season. She won several major races in her debut marathon season and set a number of world records on the track. 

“I did not expect to be nominated for the Laureus Sports Awards. After I got the invitation, I went to Paris and it was also exciting,” the two-time Paralympian recalled.

“Then I was the winner so it was even more crazy. It was an amazing evening, I met a lot of amazing people. I met Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, who I’ve admired, I met Lionel Messi as well. Little boys were really jealous of me. 

“I’m proud that I’m the first Swiss woman ever to win the award and I hope I’m a really good role model for a lot of young athletes.” 

Debrunner attended a star-studded award ceremony on 8 May, 2023. @Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images for Laureus

Packed schedule in a packed stadium 

Debrunner took up Para athletics when she was eight years old, looking up to Swiss wheelchair racers and Paralympic champions Marcel Hug and Manuela Schaer as she also climbed to stardom. 

She cemented her status as one of the best Para athletes in the world after winning the 400m T53 race at the previous World Championships in 2019, two years before she topped the podium in the same event at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. 

Debrunner's stunning performance at Tokyo 2020 saw her carry Switzerland's flag at the Closing Ceremony. @Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

At the Paris 23 Worlds, Debrunner will compete in five events. The 10-day championships in Charlety Stadium will feature 1,300 athletes from 107 nations competing across 168 medal events.  

The Swiss star opens her campaign when she takes to the track in the women’s 5000m T54 race on Monday (10 July). With more than 100,000 tickets sold for the event, her expectations are high.  

“I’m excited to say that it has been a long time – four years - so I’m happy that there are finally World Championships again,” the athlete said.  

“When there are a lot of spectators, the crowd carries you to the finish line. It’s great when you finish the race and there are a lot of people around you and when some of them are your friends, your family and your teammates.” 

Follow the action from Paris 23 via the Paralympics YouTube and Facebook, plus live results on the World Para Athletics website.