With exactly six months to go until this year’s World Para Athletics European Championships in Berlin, Germany, we take a look at the home-grown talent expected to excel.
Here are 10 of the host nation’s world-class stars predicted to do well this August.
The 23-year-old claimed a hat trick of gold medals at the last European Championships in Grosseto, Italy, two years ago – and since then has reached the top of the podium at both Rio 2016 and London 2017. Now competing in the T62 class, the double-amputee sprinter will be a key contender for gold in Berlin.
Rehm is no stranger to success, having topped the podium in the long jump at the last two European Championships as well as two Paralympic Games and four World Championships. The 29-year-old is the only competitor in his class (formerly T44, now T64) to consistently break the eight-metre mark and it would take a massive upset to knock him off the top spot anytime soon.
The charismatic German, nicknamed Bonsai, made his senior international debut at the Doha 2015 World Championships, winning silver in the shot put F41. He went one step higher at Rio 2016 and added the world title in London last year; the 22-year-old will be hoping to add the European title to his collection now too.
Another of Germany’s more experienced Para athletes, London 2017 was Dietz’s fifth World Championships – and his third consecutive global title: he won the discus F35/36 in 2013, then shot put F36 gold in 2015 and 2017. However, the two-time Paralympic champion has only ever won silver at past European Championships – with the support of the home fans behind him, 2018 could be the year to change all that.
After a season blighted by injury, 2017 will be a year Streng is no doubt happy to put behind him. The single-leg amputee sprinter won four medals at Grosseto 2016 – silver in the 100m, 200m and long jump T44 as well as gold alongside his teammates in the men’s 4x100m T42-47 relay. If Streng, who now competes in the T64 class, can regain his form this season then he could reach the top of the podium – especially with Great Britain’s Paralympic champion Jonnie Peacock opting to take a year out.
Injury also put paid to Popow’s participation in last year’s World Championships – it would have been his fifth – so Berlin 2018 will provide a welcome return to competition for the 34-year-old who won Paralympic gold at Rio 2016. This year’s European Championships will also mark the end of Popow’s impressive track and field career which saw him win 100m T42 gold at London 2012 as well as three world titles. Gold in Berlin would be the perfect end to his career.
Koleiski won shot put F44 bronze on her international debut at Doha 2015, then just missed out on a medal at Rio 2016, finishing fourth in the discus F44. She reached the top of the podium in the shot put at London 2017 and finished fourth behind two Chinese and an Australian in the discus – who, for obvious reasons, won’t be lining up at the European Championships. Gold is surely therefore a real possibility.
Bensusan first pulled on the German vest at the 2014 European Championships in Swansea, Great Britain, where she claimed silver medals in the 100m, 200m and 400m T44. The 27-year-old improved on that at the 2016 Europeans, winning two golds and one silver, before going on to clinch a hat-trick of silvers at Rio 2016. Podium finishes continued at London 2017 with 200m silver and 400m gold; what colour medal can she bag in Berlin?
The visually impaired sprinter was the top ranked European in the women’s 100m T12 last year and will head to Berlin as the defending champion in both the 100m and 200m T12 – two titles she will undoubtedly want to hold on to on home soil.
At just 19-years-old, Ave, who competes in the T38 class, has plenty of potential for the future – but she’s doing pretty well already. Although she finished out of the medals at Grosseto 2016, the talented teenager made the podium twice at the London 2017 World Championships, winning 200m T38 silver and 100m T38 bronze. She will be hoping to maintain that momentum this year in a tough class that contains the likes of Britons Sophie Hahn and Kadeena Cox.