NewsBrian Siemann

Brian Siemann Is Getting Used To Being Described As A Worlds Medalist

by Steve Drumwright

Brian Siemann competes at the 2023 World Para Athletics Championships. (Photo by Marcus Hartmann/USOPC)

Brian Siemann has been one of the elite wheelchair racers in the T53 classification for more than a decade.


He has competed in multiple events — mainly the 100-, 400- and 800-meter, but also the 1,500, 5,000 and marathon — at various Paralympic Games and world championships in his career.


Despite consistently racing the best in the world in the sport, there’s always been one thing missing: a medal.


While on one hand joking that he should have a “gold medal for fourth-place finishes,” Siemann also admits that not winning a medal at any of his three Paralympics and five world championships was “heartbreaking.”


The ninth time turned out to be the charm.


Siemann won bronze medals in the 400 and 800 at the 2023 World Para Athletics Championships in Paris last month, finally breaking through for his first medals at a global championship.


Of course, there was also another fourth-place finish in the 100 sandwiched in between, but that almost doesn’t matter. After so many close calls, the 33-year-old from Champaign, Illinois, was finally on the podium.


“I was shocked,” Siemann said. “You see the name there and I thought back to all of the times that it was a photo finish and you’re going around the track and you’re waiting and then you see another athlete’s name. So there’s a disappointment that you are so close, but then you just didn’t get it by a hundredth of a second or something like that.”


Siemann said making the podium for the first time at a world championships was a gratifying reminder of all the training hours he’s put into his long career.


“To see my name there, medaling is sort of the cherry on top of all of the work that you’ve done to get to that point,” he said. “It's a tangible reflection of that work and the time that you’ve spent doing everything.”


His first event in Paris was the 400 on July 11. After encouraging results in the prelims that morning, Siemann was neck-and-neck with Thailand’s Pichet Krungget for the final 110 meters in the final. Siemann was able to hold off Krungget around the final turn, which was key as “it would have been challenging” to overtake his Thai competitor in the straightaway, he said.


“I can always see him from my side as we were crossing the line,” Siemann said. “I was pretty confident that I’d gotten third, but I was like, ‘I don’t know. I don’t know.’ I was trying to focus on my acceleration and my sprint when I first saw my name on the board. I was just like stunned and it was just really everything that I hoped for in the past 11 years, 12 years since I started racing internationally.”


Siemann earned the bronze with a time of 48.30 seconds, just ahead of Krungget’s 48.35.


The 100 was three days later, with Siemann missing a second medal by 0.14 seconds. There was no rest before taking on the 800 the next day.


“I had looked at how everyone had performed (in) other events and I kind of created a strategy in my head about how I wanted to control my parts of the race that I was going to do,” Siemann said.


His strategy worked for most of the race. Right before making the turn for the second lap, Masaberee Arsae of Thailand made a surge from the second lane to get ahead of Siemann trap him on the inside lane. Midway through the second lap, Siemann made a move on the outside and got in prime position to medal ahead of the final straightaway.


“I just got a very strong surge and was able to kind of break away from that second group of guys and get back into third position,” he said. “The last 150, 120 of that I was feeling really confident. I didn’t see anyone in my periphery at all like I had it before 400 and I was like, ‘I think I got it.’”


He did get it. Siemann finished in 1 minute, 36.65 seconds, just ahead of Arsae, who was fourth at 1:37.96.


“To end on that one, the 800, means something to me,” Siemann said. “I have gotten fourth in a lot of my events, but that’s the one I’ve always really wanted to medal in, and so to get that in the 800 was really special.”


So was it just luck going his way this time or something different in his training?


Maybe a little of both, but the biggest difference in this competition was Siemann’s chair. Working with coach Adam Bleakney, the pair adjusted his seating position to make Siemann more aerodynamic. His chair’s manufacturer, Carbonbike, helped with some fine-tuning to increase speed as well.


“I noticed a pretty significant increase in my ability to hold and maintain speed, as well as increasing my attack speed just from that adjustment,” Siemann said.


Now, Siemann not only needs to find a place to store his medals from the world championships, but he also has to be prepared to have a bit of a higher profile entering the Paralympic Games Paris 2024. He hopes to compete in the 100, 400 and 800 again, while potentially adding the 1,500 and 5,000.


Most of all, he is getting used to how people now refer to him: A two-time world championships bronze medalist.


“It’s not something that I expected,” Siemann said. “It’s exciting that in the next year or so, that’s kind of how the competition sees me. So if anything, it gives me more motivation to continue my training and just work that much harder.”


Steve Drumwright is a journalist based in Murrieta, California. He is a freelance contributor to usparatf.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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