The heat is on in Marrakech for the third Grand Prix of 2023

A 70-strong Chinese contingent aim to build on Dubai success in Morocco; France set eyes on ideal World Championships preparation 08 Mar 2023
A male athlete
El Amin Chentouf will be one of Morocco's Paralympic champions defending the host nation at the Marrakech 2023 Grand Prix
ⒸAlex Davidson/Getty Images
By World Para Athletics

Attention turns to the third Grand Prix of the season this week, as Marrakech plays host to the latest World Para Athletics meeting.

Following on from a frantic four days in Dubai at the end of February, the action moves to Morocco where 441 athletes from across 46 countries will battle it out for the medals from Thursday (9 March) to Saturday (11). 

You can watch the Marrakech 2023 Grand Prix live HERE.

Less than six months since it last played host to a Grand Prix, the Grand Stadium is the site for a packed field of top-level talent from around the world.

But who should you look out for? Here is your guide to what’s coming up…

What do we know about this Grand Prix?

We know it is going to be thrilling! The first Grand Prix in Marrakech took place in September 2022, and we head for the same 40,000-seater stadium once again in the form of the Grand Stadium.

We know the hosts will be confident, with a trio of Tokyo gold medallists included in their squad.

And did we mention the temperature? With forecasts of up to 29° C, we know that the heat is on.

Who will be competing?

China made their return to the Grand Prix stage in Dubai, and they will look to build on a dominant showing. Forty-two gold medals were collected by a nation who had not been on the circuit in two years, setting them in a perfect position for more Marrakech magic. 

Dubai saw a host of Asian records tumble in the process, the highlights of which included shot put records for Zou Lijuan and Liu Li, as well as Xiaoyan Wen in both the women's 200m and T37 long jump. They will all be back for more.

International superstar Omara Durand will hope to build on her Dubai performance, and Mexico’s Jose Rodolfo Chessani Garcia will be the sole representative for his nation. But when your sole representative is the Tokyo 2020 400m T38 champion, you can expect to see the Bandera de México flying high at some point.

Elsewhere in the field, two of Brazil’s finest - Alessandro Rodrigo da Silva and Elizabeth Gomes – will be favourites for the F11 and F53 discus medals respectively. 

And watch out for Nigeria’s Flora Ugwunwa. She took the Javelin F54 title at both Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020, and another addition to her medal collection is surely on the agenda.

The local heroes

The good and the great of Para Athletics in Morocco will be hoping to put on a sterling show in their home nation. Of the four Tokyo 2020 gold medallists, three will be competing this week in Marrakech. 

F33 men’s shot put champion Zakarie Derhem and men’s 400m T47 winner Ayoub Sadni both won gold on the same day in Tokyo, and both will be looking to repeat their heroics on home soil.

They will be accompanied by El Amin Chentouf, the man who claimed the 5000m T12 gold at London 2012 and the marathon T12 gold in the last two Paralympic Games. They are not alone though, with Morocco boasting a 64-person team. 

What’s happened so far this year?

Marcel Hug created magic…again. The “Swiss Silver Bullet” put on a mesmerising showing in Dubai to smash his own 1500m and 5000m record times* in the T54 - 2:43.37 and 9:21.47 respectively added further glory to the shoulders of one of the greatest Para athletes the sport has ever seen. 

Elsewhere, Catherine Debrunner has been electric on the track. The Swiss T53 athlete broke the world record* in the 400m last time out, recording a 50.17. Not only that, she also recorded her second best time in the 800m (1:42:09). 

And back in Tunis, the hosts put on a show that took them right to the very top of the standings. With Walid Ktila and Mohamed Farhad Chida shining on the track, it’s been an opening to the season to remember.

How are the next Paralympic and Worlds hosts preparing?

Ahead of Paris 2024, a 21-strong contingent will represent France at the Marrakech 2023 Grand Prix. The nation are stepping up their preparations with less than four months to go until the Para Athletics World Championships and will hope to put out a warning to the rest of the field that they are a force ahead of their home Paralympic Games in 2024.

Tokyo silver medallist Dimitri Pavade has his ambitions set on a gold in the T64 men’s long jump, whilst a host of 2020 bronze medallists will look to set down a marker in a pivotal year for the team. Mandy Francois-Elie (women's 100m T37), Gauthier Makunda (men's 100m T11), and Ronan Pallier (men's long jump T11) are all part of the squad that will be competing.

How can I follow the action?

You can find out the schedule and see the results as they happen by visiting the official Local Organising Committee.

The competition is being streamed live on the Facebook page of the Moroccan Para Sport Federation.

What’s next? 

With Tunis, Dubai and Marrakech all in the bank, the fourth stop of the 2023 Grand Prix series takes us to the beautiful sights of Monterrey. Taking place from 27-29 April, there are seven weeks between meets. From Mexico, we go to Jesolo in Italy, before a Nottwil GP in late May.