Spectators at the athletics events during next month’s Asian Para Games are in for a treat with many Paralympic and world champions from across Asia competing in Jakarta, Indonesia.
One of them, China’s Hongzhuan Zhou, has six Paralympic and seven world titles and is one of the world’s best T53 wheelchair racers. Her closest rivals come from outside the region so she will be hoping for a clean sweep in all four of her events in Jakarta.
Another Chinese track star is Liu Cuiqing. The T11 athlete burst onto the scene at the Incheon 2014 Asian Para Games, winning five gold medals in both track and field (long jump T11/12). She then went onto dominate the 2015 World Championships, won two gold medals at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games and then took a gold and silver at the 2017 Worlds in London, Great Britain. Her performances have really shaken up the T11 class and she was on blistering form earlier on this year when she smashed the 10-year-old world record in the 400m, her strongest event. With Usain Bolt as her sporting hero and a motto of “make the impossible come true’, who knows what she will achieve in Jakarta.
Elsewhere on the track, expect the strong Thai men’s wheelchair racing programme to be on the podium. Rawat Tana no doubt hopes to emulate his success at the last Asian Para Games in 2014 where he won four medals. The 41-year old’s long history in the sport earned him the honour of carrying the flag for Thailand at the Opening Ceremony of Rio 2016.
In the field events, India will be cheering on their Rio 2016 medallists whose achievements made big news in their country. T63 high jumper Mariyappan Thangavelu became his country’s first Paralympic champion in 12 years when he took gold in Rio. Such was the impact of his achievement that a film has been made of his life and will be released just prior to the Asian Para Games.
Shot putter Deepa Malik became the first Indian woman to win a Paralympic medal when she took silver in the F53 event in Rio. Devendra Jahjahria became the first Indian athlete to win two Paralympic golds when he won the javelin F46, emulating his success at the Athens 2004 Games.
China’s Mi Na (F38) and Liwan Yang will also be ones to watch in the field. Yang has been a dominant force in the T54 throwing events ever since she stood atop the podium at the London 2012 Paralympics. She went on to dominate the 2017 Worlds at the same venue.
Iraq will be hoping that their field athletes, Kovan Abdulraheem (javelin F41) and Garrah Tnaiash (shot put F40) can repeat their gold medal winning performances from Rio 2016.
169 medals are up for grabs over six days of competition which will take place in the Main Stadium of the Gelora Bung Karno complex. The Asian Para Games run from 6-13 October.