The first day of Para athletics action at Rio 2016 gets underway on Thursday (8th September) with the first 10 medals to be decided at the city’s Olympic stadium.
Over the next 10 days more than 1,100 athletes across 146 teams will go for gold in 177 track and field events.
The first track final is the men’s 5,000m T11, and local hopes will be high as world 1,500m champion Odair Santos lines up at the start of the 12.5-lap race.
The 35-year-old has won three silver and four bronze medals across three Paralympic Games – he will be hoping home support will help him to reach the top of the podium this time.
The final of the women’s 100m T53 also takes place on the opening day of competition. All three medallists from London 2012 line up in the morning’s heats – China’s Lisha Huang, the winner in 2008 and 2012, is joined by her compatriot Hongzhuan Zhou, silver medallist four years ago, and Australia’s London 2012 bronze medallist Angie Ballard, who currently tops the world rankings.
Brazilian hopes will also rest with triple Paralympic champion Terezinha Guilhermina, who goes in the heats of the women’s 100m T11. The visually-impaired sprinter, renowned for her colourful blindfolds, won gold four years ago but will be pushed hard by China’s Cuiqing Liu, who took the top spot at last year’s World Championships in Doha, Qatar.
Watch out too for Great Britain’s Libby Clegg, who was reclassified to the T11 class earlier this year before going on to break the 200m T11 world record at the IPC Athletics Grand Prix Final in London, Great Britain, in July.
The fastest female Paralympian on the planet, Cuba’s Omara Durand, goes in the 100m T12 heats on Thursday morning, while in the evening session Ireland’s Jason Smyth – the fastest Paralympian in the world – opens his quest for a third consecutive 100m title in the men’s T13 class.
The heats of the men’s 100m T44 also take place, featuring Brazilian Alan Oliveira, who won the 200m T44 at London 2012, as well as the USA’s Parapan Am champion Jarryd Wallace and Great Britain’s defending Paralympic champion Jonnie Peacock.
The USA’s star wheelchair racer Tatyana McFadden starts her quest for an unprecedented seven gold medals on the track with the heats of the women’s 100m T54.
Action on the track concludes on Thursday evening with the women’s 100m T38 heats, an event that has thrown up terrific rivalries at previous major championships.
Great Britain’s Sophie Hahn is the reigning world champion and world record holder, China’s Junfei Chen won silver behind Hahn at Doha 2015, and Brazil’s Veronica Hipolito – who didn’t compete at the World Championships – is the reigning Parapan Am champion. Don’t dismiss Australia’s Ella Pardy either – the 25-year-old currently sits second in the world rankings.
Eight gold medals will be decided out in the field on Thursday. The morning session features the men’s long jump T11, where London 2012 gold and silver medallists Rusian Kayshev of Ukraine and the USA’s Lex Gillette go head to head once again.
Algeria’s Lahouari Bahlaz is the current world number one in the men’s shot put F32 – he starts alongside his compatriot Karim Betina, silver medallist in the shot put F32/33 four years ago and at last year’s World Championships.
Latvia’s Aigars Apinis set a new world record on his way to winning the world discus F52 title last year and could be hard to beat once again, while in the women’s long jump T47 a thrilling competition is on the cards as all three medallists from Doha 2015 start.
Australia’s Carlee Beattie, the current world record holder, won world gold with a leap of 5.75m last October – Cuba’s silver medallist Yunidis Castillo and New Zealand’s bronze medallist Anna Grimaldi will be hoping they can improve their personal bests and challenge for gold.