French athletes star at inaugural Paris Grand Prix

Nantenin Keita, Mandy Francois-Elie, Timothee Adolphe and Pierre Fairbank were amongst the winners in the French capital on Tuesday. 31 May 2017
France's Nantenin Keita celebrates victory in the women's 400m T13 final at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

France's Nantenin Keita celebrates victory in the women's 400m T13 final at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

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“‘I’m not happy, because the time is not good."

French stars gave the home crowds plenty to cheer about in the city’s Charléty stadium on the first day of competition (Tuesday 30 May) at the inaugural Paris World Para Athletics Grand Prix.

Paralympic 400m T13 champion Nantenin Keita (26.46) stormed home to win the women’s 200m T13 well clear of her rivals – although she still wasn’t altogether pleased with her performance.

“‘I’m not happy, because the time is not good. I have been injured and that delayed my preparations but it’s the year after the Paralympics and so things are slower.

“Moreover, I’m running the 100m and 200m this year and I’m not the best – I wanted to work on those two. I’m not happy at all about the medals in Rio so I want to get better,” added the 32-year-old, who finished fifth over 100m in Brazil.

There were notable wins too for former Paralympic and world champion Mandy Francois-Elie (28.26) in the 200m T35/37; European champion Timothee Adolphe (22.96) in the men’s 200m T11 and Sydney 2000 Games champion Pierre Fairbank (26.67), who gave it his all down the home straight to secure the win in the men’s 200m T34/53/54.

Germany’s Irmgard Bensusan (27.85) held off a late charge from Dutch sprinter Fleur Jong (28.07) in the women’s 200m T43/44/46/47, but the 26-year-old, who won a hat-trick of silver medals at Rio 2016, knows she’s got to go even better to reach the top of the podium in London this summer.

“Today I have to say wasn’t that well, I have one or two small things that I have to get sorted out first. I came here to run a fast time but it didn’t work out that way,” said Bensusan.

Runner-up behind the Netherlands’ Marlou van Rhijn at Rio 2016, Bensusan is well aware the clock is ticking down towards London 2017; preparation time is running out.

“No-one ever has enough time; you always want more time,” she admitted.

Another victory went Germany’s way as Johannes Floors (21.16) tore home to win the men’s 200m T43/44 in a time that would have won him bronze at Rio 2016.

South African sprinters were also out in force enjoying the evening sunshine in the French capital.

Paralympic silver medallist Jonathan Ntutu (22.99) led the way in the men’s 200m T12. The 31-year-old will have to get past Cuba’s double world and Paralympic champion Leinier Pineda to reach the top of the podium at this July’s World Championships – and he’s well aware of what that will take.

“Coming off a long flight I’m quite happy with my race here today. I’ve been looking for a good time ahead of the World Championships – I’ve already qualified but I just want to make sure of my place in the team. I’m quite happy, I’m injury free and it’s now just about getting my times down,” he said.

“My best will be better than it is at the moment, so when I get to London we have planned that I’m going to be hard to beat. Anybody who wants to put themselves out there, I’ll be ready at the World Championships.”

Fellow South African Anrune Liebenberg (26.14) was the fastest of the women’s T46/47 class while teammate Charl du Toit (23.93) made light work of his return from injury to win the 200m T37. Dyan Buis (23.08) notched up another dominant performance for the South African team as he sprinted home well clear of the field in the men’s 200m T38.

Morocco’s Paralympic 400m T13 champion Mohamed Amguoun (22.09) was the standout winner in the men’s 200m T13 while Ukraine’s world silver medallist Roman Pavlyk (27.78) dominated the T35/36 race.

There were wins too for Turkey’s double European gold medallist Kurt Hamide (31.13) in the women’s 200m T33/53/54 and Great Britain’s T42 sprinter and European silver medallist Dave Henson (25.10).

The first day of competition also included 800m races and it was Algeria’s Fouad Baka (1:51.72) who looked the most impressive, leading from the gun in the men’s T13 race.

Baka, whose twin brother Abdellatif takes on the 1,500m on Wednesday (31 May), was pleased with his performance which he believes will stand him in good stead as he goes for world gold in six weeks’ time.

“I’m very happy – this was great preparation for London. I’m preparing for first place there. Abdellatif will go for first place in the 1,500m, and I will go for the 800m,” said Baka.

Further home success came courtesy of European champion Louis Radius (2:07.18) who won the men’s 800m T37/38 and Julien Casoli (1:38.15) who came first over two laps in the T53/54 class for wheelchair racers.

Out in the field there was a win for Algeria’s F32 thrower and current world number one Karim Betina (8.46m) in the men’s shot put; Morocco’s F57 thrower Aicha Layli notched up two wins – first in the discus, throwing 12.16m, then in the shot put with a best of 5.02m.

Dutch world silver medallist Marlene van Gansewinkel (T44) leapt 5.32m in the long jump – the mark puts her one centimetre ahead of Briton Stef Reid in the current world rankings.

Brazil’s former Paralympic and world sprint champion Terezinha Guilhermina also took her turn in the field as she works hard on her come back after a disappointing Rio 2016, where she finished out of the medals in the T11 class.

The 38-year-old finished third in the visually impaired long jump – 4.33m her best effort behind Ukraine’s multiple Paralympic and world champion Oksana Zubkovska (5.70m), who soared to the top of the T12 rankings, and Ivory Coast’s Fatimata Diasso (T11) (4.52m).

Action in Paris concludes on Wednesday (31 May).

For more information, please visit the official event website.