Caironi v Low: the T42 rivalry set to light up Doha 2015

The Italian and German are set to go head-to-head over 100m and the long jump at the 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships. 02 Oct 2015
Caironi v Low - T42 rivalry - Doha 2015

Getting angry is not something Martina Caironi does often – in fact, you would be hard pushed to find a more laid back, warm and friendly athlete than the Italian double world champion.

Still, getting angry is what she did – and it was worth it.

Competing in the long jump in Casalmaggiore, Italy, last weekend (26-27 September), European silver medallist Caironi was disappointed. More than a month had passed since she had been able to jump 4.30m, or even 4.20m – way off the T42 world record equalling mark of 4.60m she had managed earlier in the season.

“So I wanted to try to see if I was still able to do it,” Caironi explained who won 100m and long jump T42 gold at the 2013 World Championships. “I got angry for a little bit and I tried to do it. I tried to make it like it was the competition in Doha; a test.”

It worked – the 26-year-old leapt 4.50m. More importantly, Caironi tapped in to a mental strength that she believes will help her to triumph yet again at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Qatar which take place between 21-31 October.

“Recreating that same feeling, especially the concentration, it’s very important for me,” she said. “Now I can also jump if there is clapping whereas a few years ago I couldn’t concentrate if there was lots of noise from the public. So it’s just about concentrating.

“It’s important to also have mental training, not just physical,” she explained. “I know that I can do it so it’s just about not doing anything strange, being careful not to have injuries, and just running as fast as I can. I have just to resist, to keep my form and stay at this level until Doha.”

Caironi will certainly need to concentrate hard – perhaps more than ever – when she lines up in Qatar. Her fiercest rival, Germany’s European long jump champion Vanessa Low, lies second behind Caironi in the world rankings this year both in the 100m T42 and the long jump T42.

When Caironi clocked a new world record mark of 15.15 in Switzerland this year, Low was not far behind – her time of 15.58 was a new personal best.

In fact, the German has been focussing more than ever on the shorter sprint this year, and she believes that come the World Championships she will be faster than ever.

“This year I truly have the belief it could be a tight race in the 100m and finally give Martina some competition so she actually has to fight for it,” said Low.

“For the last couple of years [Caironi] was so far ahead of everybody. Now I feel that she’s in sight, and I’m getting closer to her. I really believe that our class should be able to run below 15 seconds and I’m excited how far Martina and I can push each other, so that we may break that barrier soon.”

As for the long jump, it was Low who first leapt 4.60m – at the Anniversary Games just over one year ago; Caironi equalled that mark in May this year. To retain her long jump world title in Doha, the Italian knows that once again, mental strength is paramount.

“We are just at the same level, so I think that this competition will be half physical and half mental. I’m pretty curious especially for this reason, as I want to see my reaction in this situation,” said Caironi.

“It’s not easy of course, especially if I think that I can do it and she also can do it. But it’s the best condition for me to push more. If I have someone the same level as me it helps me.”

What if Low puts down a big first jump?

“It’s something that makes me excited, and sometimes makes me nervous. But at the end it helps me because I can manage it,” explained Caironi.

“I’ve worked this year thinking about that, and thinking about the pressure. Now I have enough experience to stay calm and think about myself during the competition and not look too much at the others, even if I know that they are pushing me on.”

As for Low, she believes she is in even better shape than she was 12 months ago, despite injury setbacks over the winter period, and adjusting to a new prosthetic.

“We have been able to finally put some work in to the long jump and the results in training are very promising,” added Low.

“It all comes down to executing on the day but I believe I’m at my peak now. I should be faster and I should jump further if everything goes to plan.”

No doubt Caironi will be thinking the same.

The IPC Athletics World Championships will take place in Doha, Qatar, between 21-31 October, attracting 1,300 athletes from 100 countries.