"I just need to work on my plan for my 200m and refine that and then deliver that performance. 24.38 is what I ran in London, and I am a lot better athlete than that, so we will see how it goes.”
Great Britain’s Paralympic champion Richard Whitehead is aiming to bounce back from the disappointment of his false start at the IPC Athletics Grand Prix Final in Birmingham, UK at the end of June, with victory at the IPC Athletics World Championships which begin on Friday (19 July).
The 36-year-old was met with rapturous applause from the crowds at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium before jumping the gun, leading to his disqualification.
Whitehead’s absence from the race allowed Germany’s Paralympic 100m T42 champion Heinrich Popow to fire a warning shot at the Briton by storming to victory.
But despite the disappointment, Whitehead is looking to regain his focus and set his sights on retaining his world title in style.
“It just happens really. The fact that it was a false start is disappointing. It’s unfortunate, but you have to move on,” he said.
“I am in great shape, really good shape and I thought that I would have run a good time.”
Whitehead set a new world record when he took 200m T42 gold in London last year, but he believes he is now capable of running even faster.
“[For Lyon] I just need to work on my plan for my 200m and refine that and then deliver that performance. 24.38 is what I ran in London, and I am a lot better athlete than that, so we will see how it goes.”
Both Whitehead and Popow have been the standout competitors in the T42 sprints, but Popow – who chose to run his only 200m of the season so far in Birmingham because of the opportunity to race against the world record holder – believes the Briton will be hard to beat.
Speaking after Saturday’s race, he said: “Gold is reserved for Richard and then we have to fight. There is the problem for the left-sided amputees. The other way round I am 1.5 seconds faster than this way, because I can lean in the curve, and that is the reason I don’t like the 200m, it is hard to run.”
Much has been made of the rivalry between the two, but it is strictly friendly with both showing admiration for each other.
And despite his disappointment at not being able to race, Whitehead expressed his satisfaction at seeing his rival take victory at the Grand Prix Final.
“Heinrich is not a 200m runner; he is 100m specialist, so it was nice to see him win that race as he is a good guy.
“It was good to look from the sideline, when you are not running, to look and see a lot of guys running well and enjoying the applause when they cross the finish line.”
As well as dominating the field over 200m, Whitehead manages to balance that with training and competing in an altogether different event. The Nottingham-born para-athlete is a successful marathon runner. He goes by the twitter name @marathonchamp and took part in the London Marathon back in April.
Striving to compete in two events can be challenging, but Whitehead seems to make it look easy. He attributes the work of his coaches to ensuring he remains in top-condition for both disciplines.
“My coaching team around me are very dynamic and that works for me,” he said.
“It is important to have a dynamic team around you to provide you with that kind of support; you just have to work hard.”
The 2013 IPC Athletics Championships begin from 19-28 July in Lyon, France. 1,100 athletes from nearly 100 countries will compete in the biggest gathering of international athletes since London 2012.