Desert Challenge 2013 preview - IPC Athletics Grand Prix

Big American names set to compete in Arizona this weekend. 17 May 2013
Blake Leeper and Jarryd Wallace

The US 4x100m T42-46 relay team of Blake Leeper, Jarryd Wallace, Richard Browne and Jerome Singleton poses after their final at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

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With 200 athletes set to compete at the event – which includes swimming and archery competitions as well as track and field - the turnout is the largest to date.

As the IPC Grand Prix series moves across the Atlantic to the US this weekend (18 and 19 May), there’s a distinct American flavour to the Desert Challenge Games in Mesa, Arizona.

With 200 athletes set to compete at the event – which includes swimming and archery competitions as well as track and field - the turnout is the largest to date.

And with just one month to go before the US Paralympic Track and Field Championships – which acts as the trials for the forthcoming IPC Athletics World Championships in July – many of the country’s top athletes will be out hoping to make their mark on the track.

America’s double Paralympic medallist Blake Leeper is part of the stellar line-up in Arizona competing over 100m, 200m, and 400m T43/44. With victory in two major sprint races – the Walt Disney World Invitational in Florida and the Kansas Relays – under his belt so far this season, the 23-year-old will be out to make clear his intent ahead of the World Championships.

Leeper’s time of 11.24 seconds in the 100m at the Kansas Relays last month means he lines up as the man to beat against a field including fellow American Jarryd Wallace, who celebrated his 23rd birthday earlier this week, and Canada’s Paralympian Alister McQueen.

There is an impressive line-up in the 200m T43/44 too, with Leeper – who won Paralympic 200m bronze last year – up against the likes of Wallace, McQueen, and David Prince, another stalwart of the US Paralympic team. Leeper has already clocked 22.33 in Claremont last month, placing him second in the T43 world rankings behind Paralympic champion Alan Oliveira.

Prince took bronze behind Leeper over 400m T44 at the Paralympic Games nine months ago, with Jarryd Wallace finishing in sixth place. This weekend Leeper and Prince will do battle once again over one lap in the Desert Challenge Games T43/44.

There’s plenty to look forward to in the women’s events too with US Paralympians Shirley Reilly, Jessica Lewis and Hannah McFadden bidding for glory in a number of events.

Reilly, 27, enjoyed a highly successful Paralympic Games in London, winning marathon T54 gold, silver in the 5,000m T54 and bronze over 1,500m. The experienced racer can’t be complacent though, with the likes of teenager Hannah McFadden – sister of multiple Paralympic gold medallist Tatyana – out to make her mark.

McFadden, Reilly and Jessica Lewis take on the 200m and the 400m T53/54, with Reilly and McFadden also competing in the 800m.

Paratriathlete and long distance runner Ivonne Mosquera-Schmidt also goes over two laps in the T11/12 classification, as well as the 1,500m, one month after completing the Virgin London Marathon.