IPC Athletics Grand Prix heads to Africa

The 9th Tunis International Meeting between 23-25 March will attract 220 athletes from 20 countries. 20 Mar 2015
Walid Ktila of Tunisia

Walid Ktila of Tunisia wins gold in the men's 200m T34 final on day 6 of the London 2012 Paralympic Games

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“The meeting provides an opportunity for athletes of Tunisia and Africa to participate in major para-athletics events, to participate in classification, to get to know other athletes from around the world, and of course to have good results.”

The IPC Athletics Grand Prix series moves to Africa next week with the third meeting on the 2015 calendar, the Tunis Grand Prix in Tunisia.

The event, which doubles as the 9th Tunis International Meeting, will see more than 220 para-athletes from 20 countries hoping to make their mark in a thrilling year of para-athletics which culminates with the IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar in seven months’ time.

The meeting, which takes place from 23-25 March at the Rades Athletics Stadium, marks the second year the Grand Prix has taken place on the African continent.

Tunisia’s Paralympic track star Walid Ktila believes the event is vital for the development of para-athletics in Tunisia and beyond.

“Our meeting is very important,” explained Ktila. “I hope the presence of a large number of foreign athletes will help increase levels of competitiveness and I am proud that our Tunisian committee continues to organise this meeting in my country.

“The meeting provides an opportunity for athletes of Tunisia and Africa to participate in major para-athletics events, to participate in classification, to get to know other athletes from around the world, and of course to have good results.”

Here are the key events to watch out for:

Men’s 100m T31-34

Home favourite Walid Ktila (T34), four-time gold medallist at the IPC Athletics World Championships in 2013, takes on the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m in Tunis hoping to continue his great run of form, having enjoyed a clean sweep of victories already this year at the season-opening IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Dubai, UAE.

Men’s 800m T54

Ranked second in the world last year behind Swiss world champion Marcel Hug, Tunisia’s Yassine Gharbi will be hoping his impressive record continues throughout 2015. The 24-year-old celebrates his birthday on Monday (23 March), and what better way to mark the occasion than with a win on home soil. He will have to watch out for his compatriot Fethi Zouinkhi who finished second behind Gharbi in this event last year.

Men’s 800m T35-38

Tunisia’s Paralympic silver medallist Mohamed Charmi lines up against a stellar field in the 800m including Algeria’s Madjid Djemai and Morocco’s Hafid Aharak. The trio finished fourth, fifth and sixth respectively in the 800m T37 at the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships in Lyon, France, and will hope to put on another world class performance in Tunisia. Also in the mix is another talented Tunisian, world 1,500m T38 silver medallist Abbes Saidi, who tops the 800m T38 world rankings this year after clocking 2:05.99 to win in Dubai.

Men’s 1,500m T11-13

As the reigning world and Paralympic champion over 1,500m, Tunisia’s middle distance star Abderrahim Zhiou (T12) is the man to beat. Watch out too for world bronze medallist Deniz Semih of Turkey (T11) and Algeria’s Abdellatif Baka, who clinched double gold (800m and 1,500m T13) in Lyon.

Men’s shot put F31-34

Out in the field, Algeria’s talented throwers Kamel Kardjena, Karim Betina and Mounir Bakiri – gold, silver and bronze medallists respectively at both the London Paralympic Games and the World Championships 10 months later – will come face-to-face once more. Kardjena has already laid down his marker this season, throwing a new African record of 9.92m in Dubai last month.

Men’s discus F51-57

Algeria’s Mohamed Berrahal broke his own world record on his way to world gold in Lyon, throwing 13.16m in the discus F51/52/53 to get the better of Tunisia’s silver medallist Mohamed Zemzemi.

Zemzemi tops the discus F51 world rankings this year and will provide tough competition alongside Saudi Arabia’s Radhi Alharthi, who finished second behind the Tunisian at the Sharjah meeting in Dubai last month.

Women’s 200m T35-38

All eyes will be on French world 200m T37 champion Mandy Francois-Elie, as she takes on a field including Tunisia’s Neda Bahi, world silver medallist in the 400m T37, as well as Sonia Mansour (T38), another talented Tunisian sprinter who triumphed over 100m, 200m and 400m here last year.

Women’s long jump T42-47

Another world class Frenchwoman lining up in Tunisia is Marie-Amelie Le Fur. The 26-year-old former world record holder, who clinched long jump F44 silver at both the 2013 World Championships and the 2014 European Championships, will be hoping for a strong performance as she looks to top the podium at the World Championships this year.

Women’s shot put F40-46

Tunisia’s Paralympic shot put champion Raoua Tlili dominated the field in last month’s IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Dubai. The 25-year-old triumphed in her three chosen events – the shot put, discus and javelin - setting a new discus F41 world record in the process. She will be hard to beat here.

Women’s Javelin F51-57

Tunisia’s Hania Aidi threw an amazing 18.32m to take world gold in the javelin F54/55/56 in 2013 to add to her shot put F54 bronze medal, and she tops the F54 global rankings in both events this year. Her compatriot Fadhila Nafati will be hoping to cause an upset having finished just outside the medals at the last World Championships in Lyon.