The World Para Athletics Grand Prix is set to take place in Mexico for the first time in history this week. With the spectacular Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains as its backdrop, Monterrey will host the sixth stop on the 2022 events calendar.
To make it even more exciting for everyone involved, it will be the first Grand Prix in the Americas region in more than two years. The last event took place in USA when Arizona welcomed the GP series in May 2019.
Around 400 athletes from 14 countries are expected to compete at the Pista de Atletismo Centro De Alto Rendimiento Niños Héroes from 21-24 July (Thursday to Sunday) for the penultimate meeting on the GP calendar.
Local heroes looking to impress
Athletics was among Mexico’s most fruitful sports at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, with a whopping eight pieces of silverware won in track and field.
The medal tally included gold for Monica Rodriguez Saavedra in the women’s 1500m T11 and Jose Rodolfo Chessani in the men’s 400m T38.
Chessani García holds the Americas record in the event and will face competition from his compatriots Angel Moises Enriquez and Cesar Eduardo Diaz for the top spot on the podium in Monterrey.
However, the title of local hero is possibly most fitting for Maria de los Angeles Ortiz . The 39-year-old veteran is a two-time Paralympic champion and the reigning world champion from Dubai 2019 in women’s shot put F57.
She used to be the world record holder in the event, until Algeria’s Nassima Saifi stepped up in Tokyo and dethroned Ortiz with a world record throw of 11.29m to claim gold. Ortiz finished just outside of the podium in fourth place, as she looks to bounce back in her home country.
A strong international field
There is also no shortage of international prestige present for what promises to be an eventful GP. Some of the most talented athletes in the world are converging in Monterrey for the next three days.
Chile’s Amanda Cerna participated in two Paralympic Games and won the Junior Championships in the women’s 200m T47 in Nottwil, Switzerland back in 2017. The 23-year-old will be eager to showcase her skills in Mexico this time around.
In the T64 sprints, Kimberly Alkemade from the Netherlands will be the only female athlete from Europe to participate in this GP. Alkemade recently impressed at the Para Leichtathletik Heimspiel in Leverkusen, Germany. She clocked 12.99 in the women’s 100m T64 - a time that would have seen her win bronze in the event at Tokyo 2020, where she came in fifth.
Robiel Yankiel Sol Cervantes not only reached a massive milestone for his career but also for his country at Tokyo 2020, as the Cuban eclipsed all rivals to win his first gold medal in his first Paralympics.
At just 18 years of age, Sol Cervantes leaped to gold at 7.46m in the men’s long jump T46 final, beating the Paralympic record set by USA’s Roderick Townsend at Rio 2016 with 7.41m. He will hope to emulate that form this week.
The long jump seems to be one of Cuba’s strongest weapons in athletics over the past year. Two-time Paralympic champion Leinier Savon Pineda, after winning both the 100m and 200m T12 events at Rio 2016, took silver in the long jump T12 to add to his teammate’s incredible performance in Tokyo.
Scout Bassett and Richard Browne will meanwhile be the ones to watch for the United States. Bassett cemented her name in US Paralympics track and field history books by winning her seventh national title with a victory in the women’s 100m T63, while Browne shattered the world record in the men’s 100m T64* at the National Championships in Florida last month.
The London 2012 Paralympic 100m silver medallist, Browne recorded a time of 10.53* to chop 0.08 off the previous record, which stood since Browne took the world time at the Doha 2015 World Championships.
In the fast lane
The 100m sprint races are set to be one of the most anticipated track events at the GP, featuring a star-studded cast of leading athletes across all classes – from T11 to T64.
Mexico’s Raul Abraham Ortiz will be looking to break new ground for his country in the men’s 100m T11/12 event. He has proven himself as a racer, winning the T11 race at the Desert Challenge Games in Arizona last year.
Straight off a stint at the Grand Prix in Tunisian capital Tunis last month, Savon Pineda carved out a top finish in the men’s 100m T12 to highlight his sprint credentials. With a time of 10.80, he secured his spot as the favourite to win in Friday’s final event for the race.
In the women’s T63/64 events, Bassett and Alkemade will have all eyes fixated on their performances, as they aim to add more international success to their names.
Other athletes to watch out for in Monterrey include Darlenys de la Cruz from the Dominican Republic in the women’s 100m T12 and Puerto Rico’s Yaimillie Diaz Colon in the women’s 100m T64. Both participated at the Paralympics in Tokyo, with the latter posting a personal best in her event.
More information about the Monterrey 2022 World Para Athletics Grand Prix can be found here.
* World record pending ratification from World Para Athletics.