Li aims to get back to world title winning form at Beijing Grand Prix

The 26-year-old T53 wheelchair racer will be hoping to hit form at the IPC Athletics Grand Prix as October’s World Championships fast approach. 16 Apr 2015
Huzhao Li of China crosses the line to win gold in the Men's 200m T53 Final at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Huzhao Li of China crosses the line to win gold in the Men's 200m T53 Final at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

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“I am very glad to come back to this familiar field and to compete with my fellow players.”

China’s Paralympic triple gold medallist Li Huzhao will line up at the IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Beijing, China, this week (18-20 April) hoping to kick start a return to the form that saw him clinch four gold medals at the 2014 Asian Para Games in Incheon, South Korea.

The 26-year-old will race in the men’s 400m T53 as well as the 4x100m T53/54 at the three-day event which begins on Saturday 18 April at the Outdoor Athletics Track – part of the China Administration of Sports for Persons with Disabilities sports complex in the Shunyi District of Beijing.

Li took home three individual gold medals from the Asian Para Games six months ago, but events off the track meant he was unable to capitalise on those victories with a solid block of training over the winter.

“After the Asian Para Games, due to some personal reasons I did not focus too much energy on my training. Now I am back in the field and I am ready for the following challenges,” he explained.

Determined to put any setbacks behind him, Li believes the Beijing Grand Prix – which doubles as The 3rd China Open Athletics Championships – will provide the perfect opportunity for him to enjoy a winning return to competition, supported by the home crowds.

“It is very important for me to have a good performance at the Beijing Grand Prix. As I have not been in systematic training lately, this is a wonderful opportunity for me to regain my competition condition. I will try my utmost at the event,” said Li, who triumphed in the 200m and 400m T53 at the Beijing Grand Prix a year ago.

“I am very glad to come back to this familiar field and to compete with my fellow players. I’m delighted to attend the IPC Grand Prix in my homeland. I have great confidence in the LOC, as they have successfully held two editions of the Grand Prix event.”

Li’s time of 15.19 over the 100m in Incheon left him sitting third in the 2014 world rankings, whilst another impressive performance over one lap – his favoured event - also placed him third overall for the year behind Canada’s Brent Lakatos and America’s Josh George.

Indeed it was Lakatos who got the better of Li at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Lyon, France, 15 months earlier. The Canadian was in scintillating form, proving unbeatable in four out of the five events he entered. Li finished second behind his rival in the 200m and 400m T53, losing the world titles he had secured in New Zealand in 2011.

Back then, it was the Chinese racer who dominated out on the track, with wins in the 100m, 200m, 400m (T53) and 4x400m (T53/54). Lakatos had to make do with 200m silver and 100m bronze.

Now, it seems the tables have turned. But for Li, with the IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar, on the horizon this year, it is a challenge he relishes.

“Brent and I have been in rivalry for years,” he explained. “He beat me in the 2013 World Championships, which has been a motivation for me and led me to get a better understanding of my shortcomings. I believe I should work harder to be the winner.

“I like fierce competition. Who wins will depend on who has the better condition at the moment. I believe that whoever fully exhibits himself and shows a tenacious sportsmanship will be the winner.

“My goal for the World Championship in October is to restore to my peak form and get familiar with my opponent, and most importantly, to attain my qualification for 2016 Rio Paralympics.”

Li will be one of 160 athletes from 14 countries competing in Beijing, the fourth IPC Athletics Grand Prix of the year.