The 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships will be off and racing in Christchurch (NZL) tomorrow, with Kurt Fearnley looking to retain his world champion status when he faces British rival David Weir in the T54 wheelchair marathon.
A four-time consecutive winner (2006-2009) of the New York Marathon, Fearnley placed third in 2010 as Weir took line honours in a time of 1:37:29. The current world and Paralympic champion and Paralympic record holder (1:23:17), Fearnley will take to the start line as favourite against the likes of Weir, Swiss ‘silver bullet’ Marcel Hug, and newcomer Josh Cassidy of Canada. He will also be joined by compatriots Richard Colman, Brett McArthur and Richard Nicholson.
“As always the marathon will be on the last day of competition, but it is an event we are all eagerly awaiting,” Rohan Short, Australian team leader, said.
“Not only do we have four Australians battling it out for medals, we also get to see the next chapter in the budding rivalry between our own wheelchair marathon specialist in Kurt and his ‘Pommy’ rival Dave Weir.”
The Australian team in Christchurch is 46-strong, with 16 debutantes joining 24 Paralympians to stake their claims for a 2012 London Paralympics campaign.
With Fearnley, sprint sensation Evan O’Hanlon (T38 100m, 200m, 400m, F38 long jump, T35-38 4x100m), Commonwealth Games Para-Sport Shot Put bronze medallist Hamish MacDonald (F34 shot put) and 10-time Paralympic gold medallist Tim Sullivan (T38 200m, 400m, T35-38 4x100m) all looking to reprise their status as world champion, the Australian team boasts the ideal mix of youth and experience.
“The Aussie contingent this year is a team leader’s dream,” Short said.
“We’ve got a strong foundation of internationally qualified athletes on the world stage competing alongside some outstanding fresh talent and that combination puts Australia in good shape for a strong performance here and hopefully again at the Paralympics.”
In the on track international heavyweight battle, Paralympic T44 100m, 200m, and 400m champion Oscar Pistorius (RSA) will battle it out with his American counterpart and fierce rival Jerome Singleton (USA) in the T44 100m. The 100m silver medallist in Beijing (CHN), Singleton is keen to stamp his mark on his preferred event heading into the London Paralympics.
“He’s a pro athlete, a 100m specialist,” Pistorius told the International Paralympic Committee of Singleton.
“It’s going to be an exciting race; whoever wins it is definitely going to deserve it.”
The IPC Athletics World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand open this Friday with races starting on Saturday 22 January until Sunday 30 January.
Tickets for the event cost $10 per adult and can be purchased from www.ticketsdirect.co.nz. Spectators can also purchase tickets on each of the days of competition from the stadium ticket office.
In addition to the live coverage from Christchurch, Paralympic sports fans can also get the latest news, gossip and pictures from the World Championships via the IPC’s official Facebook page www.facebook.com/ParalympicSportTV and Twitter pagewww.twitter.com/paralympic