Athletes gear up for Grosseto Grand Prix

The sixth IPC Athletics Grand Prix of the season will see 341 athletes from 32 countries gather in Italy. 28 May 2014
A picture of a man on the starting block

Blake Leeper of the United States lines up on the starting blocks prior to the Men's 400m T44 heats at the London Paralympics

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More than 341 athletes from 32 countries will be competing in the Grand Prix and many will be using it as preparation for August’s European Championships in Swansea, Great Britain and October’s Asian Para Games in Incheon, South Korea.

The 2014 IPC Athletics Grand Prix Italian Open Championships takes place in Grosseto, Italy this weekend (30 May-1 June) at the Carlo Zecchini Olympic Stadium - the sixth in a series of nine Grand Prix that will climax in the Grand Prix final in Birmingham, Great Britain this August.

More than 341 athletes from 32 countries will be competing in the Grand Prix and many will be using it as preparation for August’s European Championships in Swansea, Great Britain and October’s Asian Para Games in Incheon, South Korea.

Here are some of the highlights to look out for:

Men’s 100m T43/44

An impressive line-up with five medallists from last year’s IPC World Championships in Lyon, France, including a trio of Americans sprint stars – 100m T43 world silver and bronze medallists Blake Leeper and Joshua Kennison, and 200m T44 world champion Jaryd Wallace. Kennison has already got the better of Leeper over 100m this season, winning at Arizona Grand Prix earlier this month. Watch out too for South Africa’s Paralympic bronze medallist Arnu Fourie who won at the Grand Prix in Nottwil, Switzerland, just two weeks ago.

Men’s 100m T51

Home favourite Alvise de Vidi will be hoping to turn the tables on his Finnish rival Tonni Piilspanen in Italy. The pair are familiar rivals, with the Finn claiming Paralympic gold ahead of de Vidi at London 2012. Piilspanen also came out on top in Lyon last year, winning gold in the 100m T51 ahead of de Vidi who clinched bronze. It was a similar story in the 200m, with the 37-year-old taking silver ahead of de Vidi. And Piilspanen is looking strong again this year, having also won the sprint double at the Nottwil Grand Prix.

Men’s 100m T12

South Africa’s world long jump T12 champion Hilton Langenhoven takes on a tough field in the 100m T12. Russia’s world 100m T12 silver medallist Artem Loginov will also be out to make his mark against his countryman and fellow world silver medallist, Fedor Trikolich, who finished second in the 200m T12 in Lyon to add to the Paralympic 100m T12 gold he won in London.

Men’s 200m T13

Paralympic 100m T13 bronze medallist Jonathan Ntutu of South Africa will be looking to take advantage of the absence of world champion Jason Smyth, but the 28-year-old faces stiff competition from the likes of double Paralympic gold medallist Alexey Labzin (400m and 4x100m), who reached the semi-finals of the 100m in Lyon last summer. Then there’s Alex Zverev, another talented Russian sprinter, fifth in Lyon last year over 200m and silver medallist over one lap.

Women’s 100m T42

Twelve months ago in Grosseto, Italy’s Martina Caironi was crowned national champion over 100m and 200m, smashing both T42 world records in the process, before going on to clinch gold in the shorter sprint and the long jump at the World Championships. This year the 24-year-old is already looking in fine form, having kicked off her season at the China Open Grand Prix in Beijing. Caironi goes in the 100m and 200m as well as the long jump in Grosseto, alongside the likes of Turkey’s Dilba Tanrikulu (F46) and Iceland’s Matthi Thorsteindottir (F37), both long jump finalists in Lyon.

Women’s 800m T11

Another Italian out to impress the home crowds is Annalisa Minetti. The 27-year-old set a new Championship record of 2:21.82 on her way to World Championship gold last summer, having clinched Paralympic bronze over 1,500 (T12) the year before. Russia’s Elena Pautova won that race in London, and she also races in Grosseto, taking on the 1,500m T12.

Women’s Shot Put

The women’s shot put is packed with talent in Grosseto, with Italy’s Paralympic and World F11 champion Assunta Legnante heading the field. The 36-year-old set a new world record on her way to securing World Championship gold last year, throwing 16.79m. Another shot put world champion lining up in Grosseto is Russia’s Marta Prokofyeva, who also secured her F12 world title in Lyon with a new world record, throwing 13.12m.

Men’s Discus

Great Britain’s Paralympic and world discus F42 champion Aled Davies will be hoping for a standout performance in Italy as he gears towards the European Championships this summer in his home turf of Wales. Davies added discus gold to the shot put F42 in Lyon last year with a final throw of 47.62m, over 6m clear of the rest of the field, and he’s already shown great form in 2014, unofficially breaking Fanie Lombaard’s 12-year-old world record with a throw of 48.87m in London last month. World and Paralympic discus F44 champion Jeremy Campbell is another major player to look out for, as well as Serbia’s Drazenko Mitrovic, Paralympic and world silver medallist in the discus F54/55/56.

The 2014 IPC Athletics Grand Prix kicked off in February with a meeting in Dubai, UAE. Since then the series has taken in Beijing, China; Sao Paulo, Brazil, Arizona, USA; and Nottwil, Switzerland.

In June athletes will first compete in Tunis, Tunisia and Berlin, Germany, before heading to Birmingham in August.

For the latest updates from the Grosseto Grand Prix which is supported by IPC Athletics international partner Allianz, please follow @IPCAthletics on Twitter, whilst live results can be found at the events page.