The first IPC Athletics Grand Prix to be held in Africa came to a close on Wednesday (18 June) in Tunis, Tunisia, and there were mixed fortunes for home athletes both on the track and in the field during the three days of competition.
Around 260 competitors from 20 countries took part in the seventh Grand Prix of the season at the Olympic Athletics Stadium in Rades, with athletes coming from a diverse mix of countries ranging from Mexico to Mozambique.
One of the biggest name athletes to take part was home favourite Walid Ktila, the T34 wheelchair racer who last year won four world titles in Lyon, France.
Racing on home soil and into a 1.5m/s headwind, the 28-year-old came within a whisker of breaking his own 100m T34 record set in February. The two-time Paralympic champion’s time of 15.37 was just 0.04 seconds outside his previous best.
Ktila also won the 800m T34 (1:54.39), however was disqualified from the 400m.
Finland’s four-time Paralympic champion Leo-Pekka Tahti was also in action, taking wins in the 100m (14.33), 200m (26.36) and 400m (50.42). He will now head to Berlin, Germany for this weekend’s Grand Prix, where he will also celebrate his 30th birthday on Sunday.
In the men’s 5,000m T12, Algeria’s world bronze medallist Nacer-Eddine Karfas (15:16.74) was a clear winner but failed to trouble El Amin Chentouf of Morocco’s world record (13:53.76) set at London 2012.
The field events saw a number of World and Paralympic champions in action.
Like at last year’s World Championships, Tunisia’s Raoua Tlili (28.52m/881 points) beat her teammate Fathia Amaimia (23.38m/645points) to win the discus F40/41 however, another Tunisian world champion, Hania Aidi (17.20m/962 points), had to settle for second place after she was beaten by Mexico’s Estela Salas (10.76m/986 points) in the women’s javelin F52-56.
The women’s club throw F32/33 saw the top two finishers from London 2012 go head-to-head. Algeria’s Mounia Gasmi (22.03), the silver medal winner from two years ago, took the win leaving Tunisia’s world and Paralympic champion Maroua Ibrahmi (21.15m) in second.
Ibrahmi (5.83m) did secure a win on home soil in the shot put F32/33.
The men’s shot put F32/52 was won by Algerian London 2012 silver medallist Karim Betina (8.52m), whilst his teammate and Paralympic bronze medal winner from two years ago Mounir Bakiri (6.81m) could only manage fifth.
Another Algerian, Kamel Kardjena (9.28m), the London 2012 champion, was the winner in the shot put F33 as well as the javelin F33, thanks to a throw of 16.36m.
The closet contest in the field over the three days came in the women’s shot put F56/57 with just 1cm separating first and second place. Mexico’s world and Paralympic champion Angeles Ortiz Hernandez (10.23m) won with her second round throw but faced an anxious wait after Algeria’s Nassima Saifi (10.22m) saved her best throw for the final round.
The IPC Athletics Grand Prix series now heads to Berlin, Germany where around 570 athletes form 34 countries will compete this weekend (20-22 June) in the final meeting before August’s European Championships in Swansea, Great Britain.