Russia’s Paralympic silver medallist Aleksei Kuznetsov made clear his intentions for 2016 as he smashed the world record in the men’s javelin F54 on day three (Monday 13 June) of the IPC Athletics European Championships in Grosseto, Italy.
Kuznetsov won this title two years ago but lost out to Greek thrower Manolis Stefanoudakis at last October’s World Championships, where he finished third.
Roles were reversed this time however as Kuznetsov added 16 centimetres on to the world mark Stefanoudakis set in June last year, throwing 29.91m with his fourth effort of the day.
“I felt ready and I expected to get that result and to beat the world champion,” said the 35-year-old.
“I trained a lot and so I wanted to do my best performance here before going on to Rio. I’ve only repeated what I always do during training, and performed accordingly.
“I just hope I can get to Rio in top form. I will try to get even more powerful before Rio. I feel much ready for it.”
World champion Stefanoudakis - who won bronze at London 2012 - took silver this time with a season’s best 28.96m, with Belarussian Aliaksandr Tryputs finishing third (25.47m).
There was further joy for Russia as reigning 800m T20 world champion and world record holder Alexander Rabotnitskiy added the European title to his collection, winning the two-lap event in 1:56.89.
Great Britain’s Steve Morris had taken on the race with 300m to go, injecting a burst of pace as he tried to leave his rivals behind.
But Rabotnitskiy stayed in touch and cruised past round the final bend, followed by Polish pair Sylwester Jaciuk (1:57.38) and Daniel Pek (1:57.71), who took silver and bronze respectively.
“I had a small injury over the 1,500m the other day, so today I didn’t even try to beat my own record. My goal was just to get a gold medal and win in the last metres,” admitted Rabotnitskiy.
“Although the other day I came second, still I prefer the 1,500m rather than the 800m. Sometimes you get second, sometimes you win, it’s a sport thing, it’s OK.”
Turkey’s Hasan Kacar won the opening event on the track, the men’s 5,000m T11, after stretching the field out over the 12 and a half laps.
Kacar, who won 1,500m silver on Sunday, looked in control throughout as he finished in 16:25.53, nearly six seconds clear of the rest of the field.
Spain won two gold medals out in the field in the morning session, kicked off by defending champion Kim Lopez Gonzalez in the men’s shot put F12, the opening event of the day.
The 27-year-old, who won world bronze at Doha 2015, only managed to register three of his six throws, but his third round effort of 15.62m was enough to take the gold. He will compete again on Thursday (16 June) in the discus F12 – another title he won two years ago.
“I’ve been training for three months before this event here in Grosseto, but I came here on vacation a bit before this competition for some rest.” said Lopez Gonzalez.
"I’ve also competed here to check where I am at with my preparation [for Rio 2016] comparing myself to my competitors.”
“It is quite a surprise that I managed to shoot 15.62m. I did not expect that. I will try to get a 16 metre shot in Rio.”
Sara Martinez clinched Spain’s second gold of the day so far with a season’s best leap of 5.53m in the women’s long jump T12, and Czech world bronze medallist Dusan Grezl won the men’s shot put F38 with a best of 12.14m.
In the morning’s track semi-finals, Russia’s Aleksei Kotlov (22.67) was the fastest of the 200m T47 qualifiers for this afternoon’s final – the 22-year-old has already won 400m gold at Grosseto 2016.
Poland’s Mateusz Michalski has also topped the podium here this week, winning the 100m T13 on Sunday. The world bronze medallist progressed through to Tuesday’s 200m T13 final with the quickest time of the morning, 22.56.
In the men’s 400m T54 semi-finals Great Britain’s David Weir (47.16) and Richard Chiassaro (47.53) both looked comfortable after their wins on Sunday.
Russia’s Aleksei Bychenok also impressed, setting a championship record 47.08 to go through as the fastest qualifier to the final later on today. His teammate Vitalii Gritsenko followed up with a championship record 49.66 in the semi-finals of the men’s 400m T53.
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