"Looking from the outside it is going to be very exciting, but obviously being on the start line, with my family and friends in the stadium – potentially it’s my last ever race in the stadium so I’d like to leave a legacy."
British sprinter Richard Whitehead is the reigning Paralympic and world champion in the 200m T42, but now he is focused firmly on adding the 100m T42 crown to his trophy cabinet.
First, he will have to get past a strong field including the defending champion Scott Reardon, but Whitehead believes that defeating the Australian is well within his means.
And with retirement on the horizon, claiming the 100m title could well be the perfect way to sign off his extraordinary career.
“That’s why I made so many sacrifices this year – to be competitive,” explained Whitehead.
“It drives me a lot more than the 200m in respect that sport as an entity doesn’t mean a lot in life, but you kind of have to embrace parts of sport as a driver. There’s guys there who are all going to be running within a tenth of each other.
“Looking from the outside it is going to be very exciting, but obviously being on the start line, with my family and friends in the stadium – potentially it’s my last ever race in the stadium so I’d like to leave a legacy that shows yes, I’ve had challenges and obstacles in my life to overcome - and hopefully I can do that on the 17 July.”
Whitehead appears to thrive off the long-standing rivalry he has with Reardon and the chance to race against the Australian once again is one that he relishes.
“The relationship that myself and Scott has – we are very competitive and I think that’s very important in sport, I think there’s too much ‘nicey nicey’ in sport. I want to show that the high level is all about that last metre.
“On the 17 July if Scott’s trained harder than me, if he’s more athletic than me then he deserves to win. If he’s not then he’s got a fight on his hands. I’ve moved down to the 100m to show him that it’s not about the technology, it’s about being athletic.
“I’m 41-years-old on the 19 July and I train harder than I’ve ever trained. I’m quicker than I’ve ever been and it’s not because of anything other than my training and the people around me. I find competing at this age very tiring; recovery is an issue, obviously nutrition’s not as easy as it was when I was 18. So I feel I’m happy to do more than any other athlete and hopefully people see that.
“The last two years I’ve set the world lead for the 100m which is (Reardon’s) event; my event’s the the 200m. So the ball is in his court: show me what you’ve got and let’s bring it on.”
Of course, there is still the 200m to go first – that event takes place on 15 July.
He may be the reigning world and Paralympic champion, but Whitehead is well aware that a younger generation of Para athletes is hot on his heels. South Africa’s Ntando Mahlangu is only 15-years-old but he’s already won a Paralympic silver medal.
“Ntando is the athlete that is coming through the ranks,” explained Whitehead.
“He is the future of the event and I think it’s important that I continue to do what I’m doing to support that as well. To just step away from the sport and hand over the baton is something that I don’t want to do. I want to help nurture him to take on the mantle and not stick with the times he’s doing now, but hopefully push him on to bigger and better things.”