Paralympic and world champions are among a host of Chinese stars set to line up at the third World Para Athletics Grand Prix of the year in Beijing this week.
The event, which takes place at the China Administration of Sports for Persons with Disabilities complex from 10-12 May, will provide a valuable insight into what can be expected from China’s top Para athletes come the World Championships later this year.
China topped the medals table at the last two World Championships in 2015 and 2017 as well as the track and field medals’ tables at the last four Paralympic Games. More recently, the country’s Para athletes dominated the podium at the Indonesia 2018 Asian Para Games.
Guohua Zhou claimed double sprint gold at London 2017, winning both the 100m and 200m T11 in a class which includes 25-year-old 400m world champion Cuiqing Liu, as well as Great Britain’s Paralympic champion Libby Clegg, who gave birth to her first child last month.
Zhou and Liu continue their rivalry in Beijing, while Dongdong Di, who won three golds at Indonesia 2018, contests the men’s T11 sprints. World 200m T11 champion Zetan Fan, 23, takes on the longer sprint in Beijing and will face Vietnam’s Asian Para Games bronze medallist Ngoc Hiep Nguyen in the men’s 400m T11.
Reigning world champions Yifei Yang (men’s 100m T36) and Yiting Shi (women’s 100m and 200m T36) also compete this week. Xia Zhou, who won silver behind Australia’s Isis Holt at the London 2017 World Championships, competes in the 100m and 200m T35.
Paralympic champion Lihong Zhou is back in action two weeks after finishing sixth at the World Marathon Championships in London.
Zhou races in the 5,000m T54 in Beijing, while in the T53 class Hongzhuan Zhou will be the one to watch over 800m and 400m, having won gold over both distances at Rio 2016, London 2017 and Indonesia 2018.
While USA’s middle-distance man Michael Brannigan was in a class of his own at London 2017, winning 800m and 1,500m T20 gold, one man hot on his heels was Portugal’s Cristiano Pereira.
The 22-year-old won 5,000m gold ahead of Brannigan in London as well as silver in the 1,500m; he then went on to claim 1,500m T20 gold at the 2018 European Championships. He faces a trio of Japanese athletes in the 1,500m T20 in Beijing - Yuki Iwata, Yusuke Yamanouchi and Shota Gomi.
Historically a powerhouse in field events, China won 19 of their 30 world titles out in the field at London 2017 and much will be expected of their top Para athletes again this year.
Among those competing in Beijing are double world champions Liwan Yang (women’s shot put and javelin F54) and Lijuan Zou (women’s shot put and javelin F34); world champions Na Mi (women’s discus F38), Juan Yao (women’s discus F44), Enlong Wei (shot put F46), Zhanbiao Hou (discus F46), Xinhan Fu (shot put F35) and Yangzhang Wang (discus F34).
Ngoc Hung Cao was Vietnam’s only competitor at London 2017 – he finished fifth in the discus F57. The 29-year-old competes in the javelin, discus and shot put in Beijing.
Mongolia’s sole female competitor at London 2017 was Tsogtgerel Gendendarjaa, who competed in the shot put and discus F57. She takes on both events once again.