“It seems to me that my priority is my race – to run it as quick as I can.”
With the way he has been performing lately, Great Britain’s T36 sprinter Graeme Ballard could be one of the stars at next week’s International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletics European Championships in Stadskanaal, the Netherlands, which run from 24-28 June.
Ballard recently set a new world-record time of 11.98 in the 100m T36 sprint at the BT Paralympic World Cup in Manchester, Great Britain on 22 May – a record that was ratified by the IPC on Thursday (14 June).
He continued his successful 2012 by outrunning rival So Wa Wai of China - the same athlete who previously held the world-best mark in the 100m - the following week at the Knowsley Disability Athletics Grand Prix in a time of 12.06.
Ballard will now use the European Championships as his final major tune-up event before heading to the London 2012 Paralympic Games in August, where he will hope to rebound from his performance at the Beijing 2008 Games.
The now 32-year-old won bronze in the 200m at the Athens 2004 Games but then failed to medal in the 100m, 200m or 400m in Beijing.
For the last four years, Ballard has taken the focus off what his rivals do and has put it all on himself.
“It seems to me that my priority is my race – to run it as quick as I can,” Ballard said.
Ballard is being coached by “brilliant man” Steve Thomas and will face stiff competition in Stadskanaal in both the 100m and 200m, distances he is ranked No. 1 in the world in this year.
In the 100m, the second, third and fourth-ranked runners will all challenge Ballard in Stadskanaal, with those being Evgenii Shvetcov of Russia, Ben Rushgrove of Great Britain and Marcin Mielczarek of Poland.
Both Rushgrove and Andrey Zhirnov of Russia – ranked second and third, respectively, this year in the 200m T36 – will attempt to beat Ballard in that event, which is also for ambulant athletes with cerebral palsy.
With the T36 classification drawing some of the world’s top athletes to Stadskanaal next week, it will give spectators a chance to preview the type of action they will see at London 2012.
Media interested in attending the event can apply for accreditation by contacting Marijke Prins from the organizing committee at email@example.com.