Athletics: Day six preview

Middle distance races dominate day six of the athletics – but who will come out on top? 13 Sep 2016 By IPC

Middle distance races dominate the sixth day of Para athletics action at Rio 2016, with a number of key 1,500m finals taking place at Rio’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday (13 September).

The men’s 1,500m T20 final takes place in the morning session, and one name to look out for in a talented field of runners is the USA’s Michael Brannigan.

The 19-year-old, who was diagnosed with autism when he was three-years-old, won the Parapan Am Games title last August – his first major international competition – and followed that up with the world crown in Doha, Qatar, two months later.

Brannigan tops the world rankings this year having clocked 3:50.05 to win the US Paralympic Trials in July; what he may lack in experience he undoubtedly makes up for with bags of talent.

All three medallists from London 2012 start – Iran’s Peyman Nasiri Bazanjani and Polish duo Daniel Pek and Rafal Korc won gold, silver and bronze respectively, but none have matched Brannigan for speed this year.

The evening session includes the men’s 1,500m T11 final featuring home favourite Odair Santos, who returns to the track after winning 5,000m T11 silver on the opening day of competition at Rio 2016.

Kenya’s Samwel Kimani beat the Brazilian to gold in that race; he and his teammate Wilson Bii are on the start list once again.

Both the men’s and women’s 1,500m T54 take place on Tuesday evening. Tatyana McFadden made her intentions clear as she took a notable lead in the opening heat of the women’s event, while her teammate Amanda McGrory led the way in the second qualifier.

The men’s 1,500m T54 typically involves a significant number of world-class wheelchair racers and this final proves no different.

Thai world champion Rawat Tana and his teammate, 5,000m T54 Paralympic champion Prawat Wahoram, Great Britain’s reigning Paralympic champion David Weir, Australia’s multiple world and Paralympic champion Kurt Fearnley, and Switzerland’s 2013 world champion Marcel Hug all qualified automatically.

In the shorter distances, Great Britain’s Georgie Hermitage is chasing her second gold of the Games as she goes in the women’s 400m T37 final.

The 27-year-old reigning world champion was in scintillating form at the recent European Championships in Grosseto, Italy, setting a new world record of 1:00.63. She will surely be hard to beat again here.

Fellow Briton Libby Clegg will also be hoping to clinch her second title at Rio 2016 after winning the 100m T11 on Friday (9 September).

Clegg, who was reclassified to T11 earlier this year, saw off a tough field including defending champion and home favourite Terezinha Guilhermina as well as China’s world champion Cuiqing Liu to win the shorter sprint; she will be out to do the same on Tuesday.

The USA’s Ray Martin, four-time Paralympic champion at London 2012, competes in the men’s 400m T52 final – his second chance for gold at Rio 2016, having missed out on the 100m T52 title on Saturday (10 September) to his US teammate Gianfranco Iannotta.

Martin is the current world record holder – he clocked 55.19 in Switzerland last year, while Japan’s Tomoki Sato is the reigning world champion from Qatar, a race that Martin chose to miss in order to return to the USA in time for the New York marathon and his father’s birthday. It will be fascinating to see how the final unfolds.

An exciting duel is on the cards in the final of the men’s 100m T51 as defending Paralympic champion and world record holder Tony Piispanen of Finland and reigning world champion Peter Genyn of Belgium go under starters’ orders.

Genyn competed at London 2012 for the Belgian wheelchair rugby team, then switched to Para athletics after breaking his leg in 2013. He finished runner-up behind Piispanen at the European Championships in 2014, but has been making his mark ever since, winning the world title last year and the European crown last June. Watch out too for Algeria’s Mohamed Berrahal.

The day’s field events kick off with the men’s club throw F32, which features the silver and bronze medallists from last year’s World Championships, Algeria’s Lahouari Bahlaz and Poland’s Maciej Sochal.

Sochal, 29, broke the world record when he threw 37.19m at the European Championships; Bahlaz already has Paralympic shot put F32 silver to his name in Rio and a personal best of 37.51m. Predicting the winner is not easy.

All three medallists from the 2015 World Championships line up in the women’s javelin F46. Great Britain’s Hollie Arnold led the way in Doha, Qatar, with Poland’s Katarzyna Piekart and New Zealander Holly Robinson taking silver and bronze respectively.

Arnold and Robinson have both thrown over 40m this season; Piekart’s world record of 41.15m was set when she won the Paralympic title four years ago. With Paralympic medals at stake the world record is surely under threat – but who will throw furthest?