Tunisia’s Raoua Tlili and Luxembourg’s Tom Habscheid were in record-breaking form on Tuesday, the third day of competition at the season-opening Dubai Grand Prix in the United Arab Emirates.
Tlili (34.68m) has dominated her class since winning her first Paralympic title back in 2008. More than a decade on and now with four Paralympic and six world titles to her name, the 29-year-old is still improving.
A final-round throw of 34.68m in the discus F41 set yet another world record for the charismatic star who has won the shot put and discus double at the last two World Championships.
Eight months out from the 2019 World Championships back in the same Dubai stadium, it already seems foolish to bet against her completing a hat-trick.
Habscheid set a new world record in the men’s shot put F63 – the new class for single above-knee amputees established last year. The 32-year-old European silver medallist threw a best of 14.97m with his second attempt of the day.
Paralympians on form
Germany’s Paralympic and European champion Birgit Kober claimed victory in the women’s shot put F35-37.
Kober’s second-round effort of 11.32m was enough to see off her biggest challenger, Czech European silver medallist Eva Datinska (11.06m).
“I have always liked coming to Dubai and competing here. It was a great start to the season and now I will push the power to the season ahead. I want to win the gold at the Worlds too,” said 47-year-old Kober, who set a new shot put F36 world record on her way to winning European gold last year.
Multiple world and Paralympic medallists Mohamed Farhat Chida and Walid Ktila each won their respective events, adding to Tunisia’s success.
Chida (6.01m) leapt to victory in the long jump T36-38/46/47, while Ktila (50.33) won the men’s 400m T34 – his third victory in Dubai this week.
But it was not just the experienced Para athletes and major gold medallists who impressed in the Dubai sunshine.
Out on the track, there was a win for Belarusian teenager Ivan Lukashevich (4:02.27) in the men’s 1,500m T11/12/13.
The 18-year-old, who won world junior silver two years ago, only made his senior international debut at last year’s European Championships, finishing fourth in the 1,500m T13.
It was gold this time however – and a major scalp too - as he finished ahead of Algeria’s reigning Paralympic and world champion Abdellatif Baka (4:03.98).
“I am not happy with my performance today, I should have done better,” said Baka, who hit the headlines in 2016 when he won Paralympic gold in a time faster than it took Matt Centrowitz to win the Olympic title.
“The last 100 to 200m mark felt very hard. I was tired. But this is just the start of the year and I have nine months to return to my best form. I will be ready for the World Championships which is my main objective this year.”
There was middle-distance success for Algeria however. Abdelkrim Krai (4:15.37) won the men’s 1,500m T37/38 with his compatriot Madjid Djemai (4:27.77) in second place, and Paralympic champion Samir Nouioua (4:05.57) won the men’s 1,500m T46.
Tunisia’s reigning world champion Yassine Gharbi (46.02) lived up expectations as he finished fastest in the two 400m T54 heats, with Japan’s Tomoki Suzuki (48.60) in second place; Swiss star Marcel Hug did not race the distance.
“It feels good to get a gold at the start of the season,” admitted Gharbi. “It was also nice to race here in such a fast track; the competition was great. I will need to work on my start and try to defend my titles at the World Championships.”
Frenchman Pierre Fairbank (50.90) notched up his second gold of the week so far, winning the 400m T53 to add to his victory over 800m a day earlier.
In the women’s races, Australia’s former 400m T53 world champion Angie Ballard (57.78) finished ahead of Turkey’s Hamide Dogangun (58.84). Success did go Turkey’s way in the T54 race, which was won by Zubeyde Supurgeci (57.84).
Japan enjoyed a clean sweep in both the men’s and women’s 1,500m T20 races. Keiya Kobayashi (4:13.70) led the way ten seconds clear of his teammates in the men’s event and world 800m T20 silver medallist Anju Furuya (4:48.66) was first in the women’s race.
The final day of competition takes place on Wednesday (27 February) and full results from the Dubai Grand Prix can be found online.